Three Clatterbridge clinicians gain doctorates

Posted 5th May 2023

Dr Rachel Brooker and Dr Laura Cossar

Three Clatterbridge clinicians have successfully gained doctorate degrees with the University of Liverpool (UoL) following their cancer research studies.

Dr Rachel Brooker and Dr Laura Cossar were early recipients of the Clatterbridge Clinical Research Fellowship (CRF), which allowed them to undertake specialist oncology research while also working clinically at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Brooker’s research explored options for reducing radiotherapy related side-effects, developing treatment pathways that incorporate immunotherapy to improve outcomes towards the goal of personalised care for patients with head and neck cancers.

She said: “Being a research fellow at Clatterbridge enabled me to further my research experience and collaborate with inspirational scientists, clinicians, dosimetrists, physicists and researchers. I am so grateful to Clatterbridge Cancer Charity for funding my time at the University of Liverpool and providing me with the experience to become a well-rounded clinician with future opportunities to innovate and push research boundaries.”

The research of Dr Cossar has helped gain a greater understanding of how gynaecological cancers respond to DNA damage inflicted by radiotherapy and drug treatments, to guide future studies into potential new approaches to treat cervical cancer.

She said: “My time as a clinical research fellow provided me with the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of research, from within a laboratory setting through to delivering clinical trials for our patients. I am very thankful to this programme for supporting my studies and to the academics and clinicians who have shared their expertise, inspiring me to continue to develop clinical research projects throughout my career.”

Dr Rosie Lord, who was instrumental in establishing the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity-funded CRF scheme, said: “We are so proud of Rachel and Laura who were successful in gaining PhDs based on their research. The CRF programme is a successful collaboration between the University of Liverpool and The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. The scheme helps to develop the oncology researchers of the future and improve outcomes for our patients.”

Dr Umair KhanDr Umair Khan, a Haematology Specialist Registrar who has also just completed an MRC-funded PhD studentship as part of the North West England MRC Fellowship Scheme in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, passed his thesis viva with no corrections. His thesis was titled ‘Investigation of variable therapy outcomes in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia using a proteomics approach’.

Dr Khan is also involved in the Clatterbridge-sponsored UnCoVer programme which is using routinely collected, England-wide NHS datasets to answer important clinical questions in blood cancer regarding COVID-19, cancer treatments, cancer outcomes and inequalities.

Prof Andy Pettitt, the Ronald Finn Chair of Experimental Medicine at the University of Liverpool who supervised Dr Khan, said: “We are delighted for Umair – it is an incredible achievement to pass your viva with no corrections! His ongoing contribution to UnCoVer will ensure that blood cancer research in Liverpool continues to thrive, benefiting our patients for years to come.”

The CCC/UoL joint CRF programme is currently supporting four more specialist trainees: Drs Jessica Hale and Jim Parry (Medical oncology trainees), and Indy Karpha and Andrew Ross (Haemato-oncology trainees) for PhD studies. Clatterbridge's Dr Yeong Lim is also completing his PhD.

Prof Nagesh Kalakonda, who currently oversees the Clinical Research Fellowship programme, a joint University and Clatterbridge endeavour, said: “The CRF programme is a great opportunity for trainee oncologists to undertake PhD studies and gain experience and knowledge of research. The programme advances our cancer research efforts and fosters University and CCC collaborations. “Ultimately, it will help ‘train and retain’ talented and promising, and future clinician scientists who wish to pursue an academic career. This is essential to maintain and enhance CCC’s reputation as a leading cancer research centre to help improve patient outcomes.”