Celebrating cancer research nursing with the ‘Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing’ RCNi Nurse Award

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Winner of the RCNI award and finalists

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In recognition of research nurses’ vital and important work on cancer clinical trials, Cancer Research UK sponsors the Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing Award category of the RCNi Nurse Awards.

The award acknowledges all clinical research nurses and clinical research nursing teams delivering research and caring for patients on clinical trials that are helping to discover new ways of preventing, diagnosing or treating cancer.

Read about the inspiring work of previous winners and finalists below:

2020 RCNi Nurse Awards

We are delighted to announce this year’s shortlisted finalists.  

Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the RCNi is planning a virtual awards ceremony later this year when the winner of the Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing award category will be revealed. More details can be found here.

Congratulations to all the finalists and wish them the vey best of luck!

Thank you to everyone who submitted entries to this year’s Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing category.

2020 Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing RCNi Nurse Award finalists

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.


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.


Ben Hood
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

"I hope being a finalist will highlight and raise the profile of the important roles nurses play in cancer research and promote this as a great, rewarding career option for both student and qualified nurses. 
I want to highlight the scope and impact roles like mine can have both locally and nationally within cancer research, and after the current challenges of Covid-19 have gone, opportunities for roles like mine will be increased in the future."

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.


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.


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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