The Mount Vernon Cancer Centre plays a leading role in the on-going battle to find effective treatments for cancers. It is the fifth largest of 34 centres spread across the UK. The Centre links together all the people who provide care for cancer patients across a large area in Hertfordshire, South Bedfordshire, North West London, South Buckinghamshire and East Berkshire.
The Centre serves a population of around two million people, 15 district hospitals, 16 primary care trusts and a large number of hospices and special care providers. It handles 5,000 new referrals a year. The Mount Vernon Cancer Centre has 64 cancer beds in three wards. It provides radiotherapy and brachytherapy services (4,200 new courses a year) and chemotherapy (2,000 courses a year). Demand for treatment is expected to increase by 5% a year in line with a rising population.
On 1 April 2005, management of the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre was transferred to the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust. This was a strategic move as part of plans for moving the Cancer Centre to a proposed new hospital at Hatfield in 2013 .
The Centre has an international reputation for innovation and excellence in clinical cancer research. This covers most types of cancer with particularly detailed work on ovarian, testicular, bowel and kidney cancers. Much of the research work is done in close collaboration with Cancer Research UK, Medical Research Council, NHS (Research and Development) and various research units, universities and the pharmaceutical industry. The Centre is unique because despite not being part of a teaching hospital, all its 24 oncologists are committed to both clinical care of patients and cancer research.
The Centre performed the first clinical studies demonstrating the anti-cancer activity of a new group of drugs that target the blood supply to cancers – known as vascular disruptive agents. It is now combining these drugs with other cancer treatments to maximize their effect. The Centre’s work with the Paul Strickland Scanner Centre, also based at Mount Vernon, has established them as world leaders in the use of sophisticated imaging techniques that show the effect of drugs attacking the blood supply of cancers.
The Centre has also developed blood tests that can be used to monitor patients’ response to treatment for ovarian cancer and its guidelines for their use are now accepted internationally. It is now examining whether similar blood tests can be used in dealing with the skin cancer – malignant melanoma.
Progress on curing cancer
Despite the fact that more people are being diagnosed with cancer (because people are living longer and cancer rates increase with age), considerable progress is being made across the UK. In the ten years from 1994-2003, death rates fell by 13.4% for men and 9.8% for women. Improved five-year survival rates include 98% for testicular cancer; 91% for malignant melanoma in women and 78% in men; more than 77% for cancer of the uterus; and around 50% for bowel cancer.
Breast cancer survival rates have been improved by 17-20% over the last ten years. Almost two-thirds of all women diagnosed (in England and Wales) are now likely to survive for at least 20 years; and for older women (50-69) the figure rises to 72%.
But there remains a great deal to be done to further improve survival rates and particularly on some cancers which have proved difficult to treat. Find out more about Mount Vernon Cancer Centre’s latest research work here
How you can help
You could help by making a donation; by organising a fundraising event; or by taking part in a sponsored event – like the London Marathon (see Fundraising).