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On 8 November, OCTO Trial Management Director Sarah Pearson and Trial Manager Naomi McGregor joined children from Dr South’s primary school to explore some aspects of the work carried out by the Oncology department during the school’s science week earlier this month.

Key Stage 1 children (5-7 yr. olds) were given a set of CT scan images of fruit and were asked to try and match these to colour photographs of the whole fruit. Whilst providing a challenging game of match the pairs, the aim was to get the children thinking about how doctors look inside our bodies and to introduce the idea of photographing our insides to help understand what is making people poorly.

Some fruit images were easy to identify with their easily recognised structures such as the spokes (segments) of an orange. Others were quite challenging because of the image plane used – strawberries and avocados pictured as circles were hard to pair up with their real-life cone shapes. The children readily engaged in the activity and quickly saw the link between dark areas on the image and the hard parts of the fruit and how this could help identify internal body parts.

The Key stage 2 children took part in a mock clinical trial of preferred flavour of squash, blackcurrant, blackcurrant and grapefruit or black current and apple. The aim of the session was to introduce the idea of running trials of different medicines and how to make these reproducible and fair.

The majority of children were given a role to play, pharmacists to prepare the drink, doctors, patients and statisticians who compiled the results. Before the trial began the pupils were asked to predict which squash combination would be the favourite and to consider why they couldn’t see which squash they were testing.

The children correctly predicted the favoured squash to be blackcurrant and apple, with the results more clearly in favour than the prediction. Thankfully the trial didn’t run completely smoothly: one child had to drink a lot more grapefruit squash than the blackcurrant and apple and one child did not receive all 3 flavours prompting a discussion on whether the trial was fair and accurate.

There were some great follow up questions from the pupils about testing medicines relating to dose escalation, eligibility and future studies. Running a mock trial turned out to be a great way to introduce some complex trial design and management ideas in a simple easy to digest setting (if you like grapefruit!).