#WomenInScience

Updated: Feb 12

Tuesday 11 February 2020 is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Here we introduce the women leading research activities across our CRUK-funded research program in cancer genetics, CanGene-CanVar (CGCV), which addresses a range of topics such as (i) linkage of genomic and clinica data (ii) interpretation of genomic variant data (iii) development of clinical educational and patient-facing resources and (iv) ethical/societal issues around hereditary cancer genetic risk.


Prof. Clare Turnbull


Our program lead, Clare, is a Professor in Genomic Medicine and Consultant in Clinical Cancer Genetics.

She is dedicated to improving the standards of clinical care across cancer susceptibility genetics and is not only lead of CGCV, but also for Cancer Genomics on the Genomics England 100,000 Genomes Project, lead on the Genetics of Testicular Cancer Study, and has recently been awarded further funding from Cancer Research UK for 'BRCA-Direct'. BRCA-Direct' is a program that will pilot cancer genetic testing through an online application, supported by genetic counsellor hotline, to increase access to genetic testing for women with breast cancer.


Clare is also involved in teaching, advisory work, and involvement in wider clinical groups, such as the UK Cancer Variant Interpretation Group (CanVIG-UK) which is integral to the CGCV work developing evidence-based laboratory resources for variant interpretation. Between all this and being a mum, it's no wonder that Clare requires her infamous Brompton bikes to get from place to place!


“Science and Medicine are areas in which women’s strategic, logical thinking adds great value. Whilst certainly not always easy, these are both great careers for women and we must provide welcoming and firm shoulders upon which the next generation can climb."

Prof. Eva Morris


Eva is a Professor of Cancer Epidemiology and is currently making the move from the University of Leeds, where she was lead of the Cancer Epidemiology Group, to the University of Oxford. Unfortunately, her horses will be not yet be making the move down to Cotswold hills!

Eva is experienced in utilising routinely collected national data and enabling the data to be accessed for research that will improve cancer patient care. She is lead of the UK Colorectal Cancer Intelligence Hub, through which CORECT-R has been established. A secure data repository that links colorectal cancer data from multiple sources. The data can then be accessed by researchers, with appropriate ethical and regulatory approvals, in order to produce evidence-based conclusions around national colorectal cancer care. For example, one study utilised the available data to identify variations in bowel cancer screening across the UK.


Over the next year, we are delighted that Eva will be utilising the model used for CORECT-R to lead on the linkage of cancer genetic data from UK labs with data from the National Cancer Registry for the CGCV program. The data will be made available in a secure environment and will be fundamental to enable wider researcher across the program.


Prof. Kate Tatton-Brown


Passionate about educating and training the healthcare workforce in genomics, Consultant Clinical Geneticist Kate will be leading the development of educational training resources in CGCV program.

Lover of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), Kate has been involved in developing a number of educational resources in collaboration with Health Education England's Genomics Education Program. Including a serious of patient-based scenarios and videos highlighting the advancements, clinical benefits and the challenges within genomics; and a MOOC aimed at healthcare professionals titled 'The Genomics Era: the Future of Genetics in Medicine'.


The resources that will be developed through CGCV will be both proactive and reactive materials for the wider healthcare community, including primary and secondary care professionals. It is planned that these will be integrated into systems that will enable the resources to be utilised and updated beyond the five-year program.


Prof. Claire Foster


Leading on the research and development of patient-facing decision-making tools for cancer genetic testing in CGCV is Claire, Professor of Psychosocial Oncology and Director of the Macmillan Survivorship Research Group.

Claire's research focuses on the impact of cancer on patients and their families and developing resources to enable patients to feel confident making decisions about their care. One of Claire's key studies is Breast Cancer Choices, for which she is Chief Investigator. Funded by Breast Cancer Now, Claire has worked with a team of researchers, clinicians and patients to develop an online decision-making tool around genetic testing for young breast cancer patients.


The work already completed in breast cancer will be used as a guide to enable Claire and the PhD student, genetic counsellor Kelly, to develop a broader resource to support decision making around cancer genetic testing. They will be working closely with the PPI Chair, Lesley Turner.


Prof. Nina Hallowell


"It is a great honour to work alongside this group of inspiring women on a great project that will have lasting benefit to healthcare."


Nina is Medical Sociologist and Associate Professor at the University of Oxford, and has quite a long commute from her home in Scotland!

With a varied research background and particular interest in bioethics, Nina's recent publications have included: "Moving into the mainstream: Treatment focussed genetic testing a screening tool or diagnostic resource?" and "Big data phenotyping in rare diseases: some ethical issues.". Her latest research focuses around artificial intelligence.


Nina's breadth of bioethics research will be fundamental throughout the CGCV program, where she will be leading research around the ethical and social implications of the clinical use of genomic risk in cancer care, as well as wider topics such as use of patient genetic data and leading workshops for other CGCV investigators to ensure their research has ethical grounding.



Dr. Ingrid Slade


Co-leading the ethics work-package is Ingrid, a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the Ethox Centre, University of Oxford. She completed her PhD in Genomic Medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research, following training as a medical doctor and specialising in paediatrics and clinical genetics.

During her PhD Ingrid developed a strong research interest in genomics at public health level and her subsequent research has focused around the recognition that the implementation and practice of clinical genomic medicine is increasingly employing a population perspective in the utilisation of data and the integration of genomics within healthcare systems. Contemporary accounts of ethics and genomics have focused primarily on the best interests of individuals and their families.


Ingrid will soon be returning back from maternity leave and we are excited about her involvement with CGCV. Between Nina and Ingrid their research interests will ensure that ethical and societal issues across all areas of the program have been considered, from utilising data to integrating the outputs into routine healthcare systems.


“I am excited to get back from maternity leave and start working with such inspiring colleagues on some of the complex issues arising in the delivery of best patient care using data intensive medicine.”

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This work was supported by Cancer Research UK [C61296/A27223]