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Bedford Hospital plays key role in new ground-breaking cancer study

June 27, 2017

A national scientific study led by two Bedford Hospital and Cambridge University Hospital Oncologists has profoundly reduced the painful nail damage caused by one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs.

Dr Robert Thomas and Dr Sarah Smith led this study with the help of The National Cancer Research Clinical Trials Development Committee, advisors from the Department of Biological Science at Coventry University and independent statisticians, ensuring it had the highest possible scientific design. It was independently audited to comply with good clinical practice guidelines and Cambridge University Central Research Ethics Committee approval.

The study recruited for two years at The Primrose Unit in Bedford Hospital (one of the Cambridge University affiliated Hospitals). Sixty men and women receiving chemotherapy for breast or prostate cancer were randomised to apply either a simple petroleum based moisturising balm to their nail beds three times a day or a balm which exploited the natural properties of plant-based waxes and extracted essential oils. The health of the nails was measured by four independent tools and none of the patients, doctors, research team or statistician knew which balm was assigned to which participant.

In all but two of the 30 patients in the plant balm cohort, there was virtually no nail damage compared to more than half suffering significant damage and distress in the simple petroleum based moisturising balm group. The rich essential oils and plant-based waxes in the nail bed balm profoundly reduced chemotherapy related nail damage and improved nail related quality of life compared to the plain petroleum based balm. The 180 fold improvement in nail related quality of life will be welcomed by patients suffering this unwelcome toxicity which would otherwise significantly affect up to half of people receiving chemotherapy.

Commenting on this study, Dr Thomas, Oncologist said, ‘“This trial confirms natural plant chemicals still have a helpful role in modern medicine – we have to keep looking.”

Dr Sarah Smith, Oncologist also commented, “We take toxicity very seriously – this trial confirms patients journey through cancer treatments can still be improved.”

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Notes to Editors