Aoife's Corner: Summer 2019: Phase I conference, changes in the Programme Office, and thoughts for the future

02 Oct 2019
Phase I conference

One of my highlights from the summer was the Phase I: Where Science Becomes Medicine conference in Manchester. It was wonderful being able to spend time with colleagues from across the network, being totally immersed in the challenges, opportunities and incredible advances in early phase trials.

One of the talks that has really stayed with me was from Professor Lilian Siu. She gave a wonderful and personal overview of how Phase I studies have changed. It really struck me how investigators working in the early stage setting are being pulled both upstream and downstream along the clinical development pipeline. They must look earlier in the translational pathway to better understand the drug and the target so they can devise the most appropriate combinations, and as the boundaries between trial phases becoming increasingly less obvious, they also need to develop skills more usually found in Phase III investigators.

I gained a new appreciation of how challenging this must be, but also for how important it is that we ensure that the next generation of investigators have the right training to meet these challenges.

Changes in the Programme Office

We have had quite a bit of change in the Programme Office over the past few months. Sadly we have said goodbye to Ilaria Mirabile, who has gone to join NHS England as transformation lead. She made an immense contribution to the Programme office and the network in her tenure, including acting as my maternity cover. She led the development of the first clinical and scientific strategy, she sponsored EC Trial finder and she made some fantastic hires to the team. She will be missed but the fantastic news is that Siru Virtanen was successful in applying to fill this role and will now step up to be a senior manager in the Programme office.

Sheona Scales has also been successful in being appointed as CRUK Paediatric Lead. She will remain within the Programme office, but her responsibilities will expand to include coordination activities in paediatric cancer across the charity. Tara McKay has now joined us from the CRUK Graduate scheme as the new ECMC Paediatric Network Manager, and Xi Ye has joined the team from the MRC as a Project Manager.

We have also welcomed Lucy Lettin as a sandwich student from the University of Leeds. Lucy will be supporting a variety of activities across the programme office over the next year.

There have been a lot of changes, but we also need to backfill Siru’s role. Once we have everyone in place, I will send out a communication clarifying all the new people, roles and responsibilities.

Thoughts for the future

One of the highlights for the Annual network meeting was seeing the valiant Neil Jones from the CRUK Therapeutic Discovery Labs, continuing his early bird session with the ECMC leads, exploring how we can bring the expertise of the network to support the work of TDL - despite the fire alarm causing us to gather in the grounds of the tower of London.

This is exactly the type of challenge facing our investigators that Lilian Siu mentioned in her talk at the Manchester Phase I conference. I think there is more we can do to ensure that the ECMC network and the expertise within it is working effectively with other research initiatives. In the coming months I will be working with colleagues across the funders to ensure we have appropriate links in place.


Aoife Regan
Head of the ECMC Programme Office