Consultant clinical oncologist, Mark Saunders

Career background

Mark Saunders trained at Charing Cross Medical School, qualifying in 1986. In 1991 he moved to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford as a Registrar, and in 1997, became a Specialist Registrar at the Christie Hospital, Manchester, where he remains as a Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

From 1995 to 1998, he did a PhD as an MRC Clinical Training Fellow, supervised by Professors Adrian Harris and Ian Stratford.

Mark's main area of interest is running clinical trials evaluating novel agents with associated response/toxicity biomarkers and radiology. He has written a series of protocols for clinical trials that have been funded, completed and published. Dr Saunders is also an advisor to Beating Bowel Cancer, a charity dedicated to raising awareness of bowel cancer and, ultimately, reducing deaths from bowel cancer.

The application process

How do you decide which grants to apply for?

Colleagues, timing, experience.

What are the most time-consuming steps in submitting a grant?

  • Answering repetitive, similar-sounding questions.
  • When there is a different form for each grant – it would be nice if they were more straight-forward and similar.
  • Sometimes multiple signatures are needed, which can be time-consuming.

How do you deal with complex things, like costings and ethical approval?

Costings come from the Clinical Trials Unit, but often they are excessive and need close scrutiny.

Advice on applying for funding

Start early, have a straightforward idea agreed on by colleagues, share work if you can, and find a good trials coordinator to help with application / bureaucracy

The research

What makes a successful grant?

The idea should be liked by most people. Keep it simple, and keep the trial as simple as possible.

Getting feedback from colleagues on your research proposal

I've been helped by advice from NCRN subgroups. Lots of feedback is essential.

Common pitfalls and advice

Keep the initial idea simple so that it can be circulated and improved easily. DON’T write too much at the start – it could be a waste of time.

Beware of grants being reviewed by people with a lack of knowledge in your area – recommend good reviewers if asked.

Advice as a committee member

If you sit on grant-awarding committees, what makes you look favourably on an application?

I look for simple trials that are feasible in the time-period. Even though the applicant may be new, it's important that the group from which they originate has a good reputation. Similarly, the clinical trials unit they are associated with should be well thought of and efficient.

Find out more about this funding

Mark's advice for applicants

"I look for simple trials that are feasible in the time-period. Even though the applicant may be new, it's important that the group from which they originate has a good reputation."

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