Logo for the ACT clinical trials organisation

Anthony Nolan announces £1 million investment in new clinical trials organisation ACT

January 4, 2024

Anthony Nolan continues to  invest in new blood cancer treatment innovations with a £1 million contribution to the new not-for-profit clinical trials organisation, ACT (Accelerating Clinical Trials Ltd).

ACT's aim is to accelerate blood cancer clinical research in the UK. It builds on the success of two clinical trial networks, IMPACT and TAP, bringing together their unique teams of specialist nurses to help recruit even more patients to life-saving clinical trials. ACT is a non-profit model that hopes to eventually become self-sustaining, with surplus income being reinvested into projects aimed at patient benefit.

Research into new and improved treatments is vital to Anthony Nolan’s aims of Survival, Equity, and Progress, and is an important part of our new research strategy. We want to be able to provide more treatment options for patients who do not have a fully matched stem cell donor, including those from a minority ethnic background. To ensure all communities benefit from scientific progress, Anthony Nolan is particularly keen for ACT trials to involve people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and demographics.

Anthony Nolan decided to become a funding partner of ACT partially due to the success of the pilot IMPACT clinical trial network, which the charity supported. IMPACT helped to prove the effectiveness of the ‘hub and spoke’ model for clinical trials.  This system used a clinical trials unit in Birmingham (the ‘hub’) fed by a nationwide team of clinical nurse specialists (the ‘spokes’), helping to boost the recruitment of patients into clinical trials and expanding access for patients nationally. More than 900 patients have been recruited to clinical trials over the first five years of IMPACT’s work.

The pilot has been so successful that it inspired the creation of ACT, aimed at bringing together the expertise within both IMPACT and the blood cancer-focussed TAP network. For future IMPACT and TAP trials, ACT will be the hub. This new model aims to generate income to support patients and healthcare workers. Anthony Nolan partnered with NHS Blood and Transplant and Cure Leukaemia to raise enough funds for the initial stages of ACT.

 “ACT are delighted to be supported by Anthony Nolan alongside Cure Leukaemia and NHSBT in building specialised additional clinical research capacity in the UK. This ensures that patients have access to research on novel treatments and cellular, transplant, and combination therapies. Anthony Nolan’s global reputation will help us to attract further world class clinical research to the UK”

Dr Mercia Page, Chief Executive Officer, ACT

ACT has already been recognised as a key component of the UK’s clinical trials infrastructure, receiving a special mention in Lord O’Shaughnessy’s 2023 report into UK clinical research.

ACT aims to attract researchers and companies that want to run clinical trials into blood cancer treatments. In its start-up phase, ACT relies on philanthropic support, but the goal is to become self-sustaining and it is already generating income from trials activities. Surplus income will be re-invested into training clinical nurse specialists and clinical trial doctors to sustain the capacity for advances in stem cell transplants and other blood cancer treatments in the long-term.

“We’re looking forward to working with ACT over the coming years, working in partnership to make sure all patients have the best chance to not only survive, but to thrive. ACT’s work is vital for the stem cell transplant patients we support, as it will drive improvements in clinical practice and the development of innovative treatments.

“This work will have a huge impact, for stem cell transplant patients and the clinical community. ACT will ensure that more patients have the opportunity to participate in practice-informing clinical trials, not only benefiting them and future patients, but also giving clinicians the insight and evidence they need to provide the best possible treatment and care.”

Henny Braund, MBE, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan

ACT partners closely with the DIDACT Foundation, which is a charity that provides strategic oversight and expert guidance to ACT. Any surplus income from clinical trials run by ACT will be fed back into the DIDACT Foundation, which will invest in projects with clear patient benefit like the training programmes mentioned above. Anthony Nolan’s CEO, Henny Braund, is on the DIDACT Foundation’s Board of Trustees in an advisory capacity.

ACT is a unique collaboration between healthcare professionals, charities, and the NHS to create better partnerships and capacity for research innovation, and ultimately provide better treatments for people with blood cancer.

The successful formation of ACT also highlights the importance of clinical nurse specialists in recruiting patients to clinical trials. These specialist nurses are also crucial in helping to inform blood cancer patients of all available treatment options, and guiding them through the treatment process. The expansion of the network of clinical nurse specialists is something we are passionately continuing to work towards.

Anthony Nolan is excited about future innovations in blood cancer treatments and stem cell transplants that the ACT organisation will help to accelerate.