Interview with Dr Natalie Cook, the new lead of the Manchester ECMC

12 Dec 2018

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Lead of the Manchester ECMC. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and why you got into clinical research?

I’m interested in novel therapeutics for gastrointestinal cancers, unknown primary cancers and translational biomarker design.

I started my research career at the University of Cambridge, investigating translational therapeutics and biomarker assay design in pancreatic cancer for my PhD.

Clinical research was a big part of my training there, and I really enjoyed taking scientific findings to the clinic, so I decided to embark on a career in the world of early phase clinical trials.

I spent two years at the University of Toronto and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Canada, conducting a drug development research program.

I am now a Senior Clinical Lecturer in Experimental Cancer Medicine at the University of Manchester and Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology at the Christie Hospital, where I’ve been in post since September 2015.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge facing clinical research today?

The biggest challenge is trying to balance NHS service and clinical research commitments in an increasingly stretched health service. However, within this challenge also lies the opportunity to allow collaboration and close connections between the networks within the UK. We have to be internationally competitive and show the world the UK is the best place to position clinical research opportunities.

Which aspects of your new role are you most excited about?

I am excited about taking a leading role in the continued development of early phase trials in Manchester. I am also really looking forward to being involved with the strategic development of the ECMC network moving forward.

What do you think will be the big changes in your area in the next 5 years?

Precision medicine is already implemented across clinical trials. It will be a challenge to try and incorporate this into NHS practice for the majority of cancers, however I do hope this is something that can be done in the next 5 years.

If you could be present at one scientific discovery, which one would it be?

The breaking of the Enigma code.