Royal College of Nursing’s Nursing Awards: Celebrating research nursing with the Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing Award

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Excellence in cancer research nursing award

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What is the Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing Award?​

The Royal College of Nursing’s Nursing Awards celebrate the very best in nursing. ​

The Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing Award category recognises all clinical research nurses and clinical research nursing teams who deliver vital clinical trials helping to discover new ways of preventing, diagnosing or treating cancer.​

Cancer Research UK is proud to sponsor this award to celebrate clinical research nurses’ impact on patient care and cancer research outcomes.

For more information on the criteria for entering, visit the RCN Nursing Awards.

2021 Finalists

We are delighted to announce the 2021 shortlist for the Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing RCN Nursing Award category.

The winner will be announced at the RCN Nursing Awards ceremony later this year.

Thank you to everyone who submitted entries, and congratulations to the finalists – read more about their work and what being shortlisted means to them below.

Irene Debiram-Beecham

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to show how we can bridge the gap between research and clinical implementation in using the Cytosponge Device Technology. It has provided a pathway to inspire and empower nurses to take on additional skills thus leading to patient benefit and positive outcomes.

The Cytosponge test has been shown to diagnose ten times more pre-cancerous Barrett’s oesophagus cases than usual care. Its rapid implementation during the pandemic would not have happened without the commitment and expertise of cancer research nurse Irene Debiram-Beecham. She has designed Cytosponge training and a ‘train the trainer’ programme including a webinar, hands-on training and competency-based sign-off. She has extended training across the UK, advising staff at national and international sites and providing dedicated support for nurses during their training and while setting up and running new clinics. Colleagues have reported that her passion and calm, authoritative nature has empowered nurses to learn new skills and develop an inspiring nurse-led service.

Early phase clinical trials

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Rosie Lomas, research nurse, early phase clinical trials team.

It's a huge honour to be put forward as a finalist for the awards - psychological well-being amongst cancer patients is a hugely important area, especially after the last year. Our project has allowed us to focus in on improving our patient’s outcomes and we are incredibly proud to be recognised.

This team at Churchill Hospital has seen impressive results after its introduction of a mental well-being assessment for early phase trial patients to ensure they were receiving effective and holistic care from the start of their treatment. Its implementation has led to numerous referrals to counselling and other services and it has improved communication between patients and staff, allowing them to broach subjects that may otherwise have been unaddressed. The team has streamlined its referral systems since introducing the assessment. Patient feedback has been positive and nurses feel well supported to discuss emotional topics with patients who have no other treatment options.

Oncology research team

Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust

We are hugely proud to be shortlisted. As a team, we have been recognised within our Trust as making a difference to patients with cancer. More importantly, we have had recognition from the patients and families themselves, which is the greatest accomplishment we could hope for, especially after the last year.

The resilient Broomfield Hospital team has been shortlisted for its commitment to ensuring patients with mesothelioma who previously had few options could access a potentially life-lengthening treatment fast-tracked by NICE during the pandemic. Despite the research centre being recommissioned as a treatment room and research nurses being deployed for coronavirus research, the commitment and leadership of the team meant that patients were still able to take part in the trial. Feedback from patients and staff involved in the study has been extremely positive, and the impact on these patients has been immeasurable, giving them hope and more time with their families.

Haematology research team

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

It’s an extreme honour to be a finalist and part of a fantastic team of research nurses. It is massive recognition for what we do and since hearing the news, it has spurred us on to do even better for our patients!

Despite research being halted by the pandemic, the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust’s haematology research team led by Biruk Asfaw overcame huge barriers. They adapted to restrictions and staff shortages to provide care and treatment safely and successfully reopened six key clinical trials to recruitment after the initial wave of COVID-19 cases. They safely provided trialled treatment for existing patients and for multiple patients on a further three trials throughout the pandemic. One of these included a CAR T-cell therapy trial providing a life-saving novel treatment that is not yet available on the NHS. Without the swift action of the team, the opportunity for patients to receive this treatment would have been lost.

Team Christie Research

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

Team Christie Research has been shortlisted for its impressive record of recruitment and delivery for many complex cancer studies during the pandemic, while also being key in the running of local and national COVID trials and being the second highest recruiting site for the national psychological impact of COVID-19 study. The advanced immune and cell therapy team also treated its first patient on a complex advanced therapy medicinal product trial. This has been achieved despite the challenges of maintaining trial patients’ safety and coping with staff redeployment. It also admitted surgical patients allowing essential cancer surgeries to continue across Greater Manchester, requiring the team to develop new skills.

Congratulations to all previous winners and finalists of the Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing RCN Award. You can read more about their work below:

Winner: Ben Hood, Newcastlee upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

"Winning this year’s RCNi Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing Award is an incredible honour. The exposure this has given my project has been fantastic and I’ve since had conversations at a higher level within my organisation, with other cancer research departments and universities across the UK. I believe that winning the award will raise awareness of research nursing and ultimately benefit patients on cancer trials and improve outcomes. This year has been very challenging, but I have a renewed motivation to drive this agenda further. I’ve found my career in research nursing in cancer services humbling and inspiring, and I want to ensure other nurses have a chance to share my passion.”

The National Experimental Cancer Medicine Nurse Steering Group was concerned that nurse recruitment, gaps in undergraduate education and lack of awareness of the role of clinical research nurses would have an impact on early and late phase cancer research and the patients who might benefit. Steering group member Ben Hood volunteered to develop a pilot project to highlight the role of clinical research nurses in cancer services that could be used across the UK. He delivered education sessions to 2,000 students in north east England, and presentations for Edinburgh Napier University and is currently developing this work into an E-learning resource for undergraduate nurses in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research. There are plans to develop the work nationally.

Read more about Ben’s work here in Cancer Nursing Practice.

Finalist: Amparo Domingo Lacasa, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

"I am extremely honoured to be recognised as a finalist in the RCNi Awards Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing category. This is especially important in the year when the nursing profession is celebrated globally.
I am pleased to be able to share my work as I believe that the role of practice educator could benefit the research workforce more widely. Whilst it is important to conduct trials to the best standard, it is equally as valuable to learn about the delivery of high-quality patient-centred care."

Research nurse Amparo Domingo Lacasa has been nominated for the way in which she has taken on a new, innovative clinical practice facilitator role in the 100-strong research team at University College London Hospital’s cancer clinical trials unit and made it a success through her drive, enthusiasm and evidence-based approach. To ensure standardised, safe and effective care for patients enrolled in trials, she has designed, piloted and evaluated an induction programme for new starters, assigned them a mentor and given them eight-week supernumerary status. She has also introduced a programme of clinical skills training and reflective practice sessions.

Finalist: Early Phase Clinical Trials Team, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre

"We are delighted to be shortlisted. Our goal is to provide the best service and support we can to our patients, especially as they are often dealing with a difficult diagnosis and uncertainty about their future. We want to ensure they have better access to early phase trials, giving them hope as they explore the possibility of further treatment options. I am very proud that my team’s work has been recognised for this."

Led by advanced research practitioner Jennie Derham, the early phase clinical trials team at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre makes early phase trials accessible to all patients in Cheshire and Merseyside, many of whom have exhausted their treatment options. It has developed a successful early phase trials clinic after securing resources and space. The team raises awareness of the new service across the trust with a monthly newsletter and has seen an increase in referrals. The team’s work means that it can open and manage a larger portfolio of trials, and it has been able to offer more early phase treatment options to patients.

Finalist: Greater Manchester Education Team, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

"It’s an honour to be shortlisted as a finalist, especially looking at the high calibre of other finalists. It celebrates the work we do to increase knowledge of oncology with our health professional colleagues, which not only leads to more effective patient communication and better experience, but inspires our future workforce to learn, become leaders and create a culture of celebrating success."

Led by Sharon Woolley, this team has worked enthusiastically to ensure a package of training is available for all research nurses who support oncology clinical research in their practice. The training covers the basics of cancer and its treatments as well as helping nurses appreciate the impact of a cancer diagnosis on a patient and their family. Participants’ improved knowledge and skills and their understanding of patient pathways and the breadth of treatments available is enhancing the patient experience and the support they receive. The nurses’ response to the training has been extremely positive and there is a waiting list for further cohorts.

Finalist: Research and Innovation Team, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre

"We are immensely proud and honoured to be considered for such a prestigious award in our very unique field of expertise. Recognition on a national basis for the hard work and dedication shown by my team, especially during these very difficult and challenging times, would be monumental. It will empower us to strive further for our patients, and if were to win, we would wear [the award] like a badge of honour.”

This research nurse team’s strategy of continual improvement and review, and its work to embed research as part of Clatterbridge’s culture, has resulted in more patients receiving faster access to pioneering cancer clinical trials. It has been central to the development and introduction of a new feasibility process in which nurses are involved at a much earlier stage. New trial set-up times have been slashed from 198 days to 27 days. There has also been a significant increase in recruitment with 975 patients recruited by month nine of 2019/20 compared with 513 patients recruited in the whole of 2018/19. Furthermore, the number of commercial studies open at the centre has increased from 20 to 27.

Winner: Rachel Taylor, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Rachel Taylor is the chief investigator and grant holder of the Sarcoma Assessment Measure (SAM) study to develop and validate a sarcoma-specific patient reported outcomes questionnaire that will improve communication between patients and their clinicians.

She established an interdisciplinary research team that reflects the diversity of healthcare professionals who care for patients with sarcoma, including nurses, psychologists, medical oncologists, a paediatrician and an orthopaedic surgeon. Patient representatives also contribute to the team as co-researchers.

SAM was one of the biggest recruiting studies in sarcoma last year, thanks to the involvement of a sarcoma research nurse in protocol development. By mapping care pathways they identified time points and people who could approach patients.

Finalist: Margaret Brunton, Clinical Research Network North West Coast

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is currently the highest recruiting site in England for STAMPEDE – a high-impact prostate cancer trial – but faced stopping recruitment due to a crisis in research nurse capacity.

The study would not have survived without the three-year contribution of taskforce research nurse Margaret Brunton, who was seconded to the trust from Clinical Research Network North West Coast. She has helped streamline the patient pathway to ensure that deadlines for entry are not missed.

The study complexity has soared in terms of ongoing patient management and requests for historical data, yet she has continued to support greater numbers than ever with her holistic care. Patient feedback has been hugely positive, with Ms Brunton’s telephone follow-up reducing the need for patients to travel what for some is a 160-mile round trip.

Finalist: Ben Hood, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Newcastle CRUK (Cancer Research UK) senior nurse Ben Hood developed multimedia patient information resources for early clinical trials to support patients attending the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre who have no proven treatment options left.

He coordinated all patient and public involvement (PPI) discussion groups and drafted and proofread all the documents that emerged from the groups, ensuring the patient voice won when it conflicted with the trust’s policies on publishing information.

He has kept patients as the driving force for the project, supporting PPI members at public events to discuss its focus. He has developed a resources website, produced staff video interviews, and is now leading on development of a phone app.

Finalist: Elaine Blowers and Clare Dickinson, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

These senior nurses took a whole-organisation approach to raising awareness of clinical trials, so that all patients coming into contact with trust staff have an equal opportunity to participate in research.

They implemented a comprehensive trust-wide programme to take their message to every member of staff at every level.

Their Introduction to Research programme includes talks, presentations and videos featuring key figures. They developed trained research champions and a staff research engagement group and created research cafes for informal talks in public hospital spaces. The senior nurses also worked with HR to ensure that job adverts, job descriptions, inductions and performance documentation incorporate research.

Finalist: Lisa Price, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Paediatric oncology research sister Lisa Price is dedicated to ensuring children and young people participating in clinical research trials receive the best support possible.

Under her leadership, a 12-strong paediatric oncology research nurse and clinical trial team has become a leading international research unit. By pioneering an enhanced research nurse role, she has enabled the team’s nurses to obtain consent. This has increased the number of tumour samples collected for banking, meaning the team is now the UK’s largest contributor.

These successes have been driven by her focus on compassionate care and excellent listening and communication skills. She engages patients of all ages and ensures they have a broad understanding of their disease, treatment and research.

Winner: Foteini Rozakeas, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Foteini Rozakeas is responsible for screening, recruiting, consenting and registering patients into the PEACE study – the Posthumous Evaluation of Advanced Cancer Environment - study. Her minimum target of 10-15 tissue harvests post-mortem per year is met in a sensitive, respectful and dignified way. She liaises with supporting recruiting sites and affiliated institutions such as hospices and the PEACE multidisciplinary team to coordinate the tissue harvests in a timely manner, 24-72 hours after death. She assists with the collection of blood and tissue samples taken at baseline and up to four further points before death, including their processing, storage and tracking.


Finalist: Carly Ringrose and Cristiana Da Silva Andrade Goncalves, University of Southampton

These research nurses have established and developed a phase 1 oncology trials clinic at Southampton General Hospital, delivering a portfolio of complex academic and commercial trials while showing empathy and compassion to patients with limited options and life expectancy. The clinic offers patients hour-long appointments to discuss the complex information relating to participation in a phase 1 oncology trial, reducing pressure on busy oncology clinics. The nurses support patients while they wait for treatment slots to become available and manage referrals sensitively. They deliver treatments, including novel agent first-in-human treatments and capture data.

Finalist: Karen Parsons, Northern Ireland Cancer Trials Network

Karen Parsons conducted a pilot project integrating holistic needs assessments (HNAs) into the role of cancer research nurses when they become the key workers for prostate cancer patients participating in clinical trials. The HNA includes assessment of physical, practical, family/relationship, emotional, spiritual/religious concerns and lifestyle or information needs. The process includes continence and erectile dysfunction assessment, and development of appropriate care plans and referral. As well as ensuring seamless patient care, a care plan is devised with the patient agreeing the best way to manage concerns or appropriate referrals are made. Positive feedback indicates high levels of satisfaction with information, contact, treatment and support.

Finalist: Lorraine Turner, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

Advanced nurse practitioner Lorraine Turner led, designed and managed an audit to assess the holistic needs of the rapidly increasing number of patients referred to the experimental cancer medicine team. The audit highlighted patients who had a significantly high level of concern at referral, increasing to 79% at the end of trial, with concerns relating to current illness, treatment, physical concerns, not being able to do things, and the future. Symptoms causing significant distress at referral included pain, shortness of breath, bowel problems and lethargy. Approximately half were referred to palliative/supportive care services following assessment. Only 14% were already in contact with supportive care services.

Finalist: Valerie Cowens and the early phase nursing team, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust

This nursing team has demonstrated how to successfully run cancer trials in the era of personalised medicine. While its expertise is in first-in-human safety studies, it has enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to adapt working practices to deliver a molecular profiling and treatment study. This has been highlighted by the success of recruitment to the National Lung Matrix Trial in north east England, and the team’s record for ensuring patients with a potentially treatable abnormality in their lung cancer are offered a chance at treatment. The team provides continuity of care for patients during the complicated process of entering and participating in the study.

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