I am a Medical Oncology Registrar at University College London Hospital. I took time out of training to undertake a Cancer Research UK Clinical Trial Fellowship in September 2021 at the end of my ST5 year.
Since starting my fellowship I have been involved with setting up the REFINE trial, a multi-arm, multi-stage trial investigating whether we can give immunotherapy drugs less frequently to treat cancer. I also launched a study called OPTIC, which looks at patient perspectives on optimising the way that we give immunotherapy for cancer.
I have a very varied week which is something I really enjoy working here. I have continued to do a breast cancer clinic, one day a week, to maintain my clinical practice. During my fellowship, I am also studying for a PhD in the optimisation of immune checkpoint inhibitors, which are used to treat many different cancer types.
I have a very varied week which is something I really enjoy working here.
One of the reasons that I was attracted to oncology was that it is a research-driven specialty. I knew that I wanted to dedicate some time away from clinical practice to develop my research skills and complete a PhD. Throughout my training, I realised I would like to pursue a career as a clinical trialist, rather than within a laboratory.
I am towards the end of my clinical training and so I need to develop skills beyond being a good clinician. This includes leadership and project management skills. It can otherwise be challenging to be involved with large-scale projects during clinical training, as we rotate between sites frequently. I work alongside multidisciplinary teams including statisticians, clinicians, operational staff, and patient representatives.
Although I primarily work within the cancer division, I often work with colleagues across other areas, such as infections and neurodegenerative diseases. Because these are areas outside of my expertise, it has given me new insight into challenges that are still relevant to me, such as the complexities of setting up international trials and working with patient groups.
I have been able to foster my interest in education by setting up the NIHR Associate Principal Investigator Scheme at the Unit and I have developed a national educational programme for those taking part in the scheme. I also teach on two MSc’s in Clinical Trials, one at UCL and one at the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in India.
My colleagues at the Unit have a wealth of experience and expertise, which is very inspiring. I have found people very approachable and willing to sit down over a coffee and share their thoughts and discuss ideas.
I have also been given the opportunity to lead my own projects. For example, I set up a translational study which I am coordinating across the UK and US. These experiences have enabled me to establish a broader research network beyond the Unit.