Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Calls for national treatment review as expert claims Tayside chemo risk findings are ‘built on sand’

Professor Mark Chaplain
Professor Mark Chaplain

A leading expert has called for a national review into the effects of different chemotherapy doses on breast cancer patients in the wake of treatment revelations at NHS Tayside.

Professor Mark Chaplain, who specialises in analysing mathematical models of cancer growth at St Andrews University, insisted there are international studies to back up claims that lower doses do not cause increased harm to patients.

One such example is a 10-year-old study in Finland which compared the difference between low and high chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, finding individuals on lower doses suffered no inferior outcomes and also reported lower side effects.

Nearly 200 patients were given lower than standard amounts of a chemotherapy drug by doctors in Tayside between December 2016 and March 2019 in a bid to reduce harmful side effects and long-term secondary conditions.

A Scottish Government-commissioned review published last month advised that patients were put at a 1-2% increased risk of having their cancer return as a result of the treatment, but the findings have been met with scrutiny by some clinicians.

Professor Chaplain, Gregory Chair of Applied Mathematics at the Fife university, has called for a national review to find definitive answers for patients and families.

He told the BBC: “Perhaps what is needed is a proper statistical analysis of the Tayside situation, along with the rest of Scotland, to come up with a proper comparison to see if either (dosage) cohort was advantaged or disadvantaged.”

The call comes following the publication of a scathing report, compiled by a retired oncology expert with decades of experience, which suggests the Scottish Government-backed risk assessment was carried out by “armchair oncologists”.

The document, seen in full by The Courier, claims it has “none of the characteristics associated with dispassionate enquiry” and “reads as if it were an exercise in reverse engineering: we know the answer, now let’s show how we can find it”.

>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The Courier newsletter

It said the suggestion of an increased risk to patients was “built on sand”.

The author added: “There are no references provided, suppositions are presented as facts, the language is vague and shifty, and there is neither coherent numerical analysis, nor any serious attempt to find informative evidence.

“The real problem with the report is that it deals with irrefutable hypotheticals.”

It is understood the report was circulated among senior doctors last week as officials from the Royal College of Physicians arrived in Tayside to further investigate the practices of the local oncology team.

Lee Dennis, who set up the NHS Tayside Cancer Care Support Group, has repeatedly asked senior figures to “corroborate their assertions with publications, statistical data, and like-minded opinions from other cancer networks in Scotland”.

She said: “How can the Scottish Government make any sort of intelligent comment on a report when the data and methodology that informs said report is unavailable? It makes for a rather hollow assurance.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring all patients get the best care and treatment possible.

“We have robust mechanisms in place for oncology guidelines and treatment across the country which follow the latest evidence and monitor new research appropriately.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in