NICTN congratulates Hazel Carson awarded MBE

NICTN send massive congratulations to Hazel Carson, a member of the NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum, who has been awarded a MBE in the New Year Honours for services to people with genetic high risk of cancer in Northern Ireland.

Hazel is very deserving of this award and she is a total inspiration! Hazel set up BRCA Link NI BRCA Link NI Home ( , a voluntary organisation helping people to access information and support about BRCA genetic mutations whilst raising awareness of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.  Hazel’s on-going dedication and enthusiasm are immense and her influence on services and research alike are totally invaluable alongside so much more, including the wonderful individual support she provides to so many.  She shares her own story here About BRCA Link NI (

Deserved recognition for this brilliant service to the community!

Andrea and Emma Run for Belfast Tap Centre and Thank Supporters

They did it!

Congratulations to Andrea Patterson and Emma Wilson who ran from the front of the Belfast City Hospital past many of Belfast’s landmarks and back to base completing 14 km on 18 November 2020.

An amazing fundraising achievement by the enthusiastic duo!

Emma explained she had been motivated to do something to try and benefit patients and raise the profile of Cure Leukaemia.  ‘Research is all about creating new knowledge and Cure Leukaemia allow us to facilitate this through funding nursing posts and with the introduction of TAP trials. Thank you to each and every donation and for all the support we have received.’

Andrea continued ‘Like a lot of charities, Cure Leukaemia’s fundraising activities have been severely affected by COVID-19 restrictions. Our patients benefit due to Cure Leukaemia’s funding of a Clinical Research Nurse in Belfast and it was great to be able to raise money on their behalf. Thanks so much to everyone who supported us in any way!’

Andrea and Emma Run for Cure Leukaemia photos 18.11.20

NICTN Haematology Research Nurses Run for Cure Leukaemia

Belfast Haematology Clinical Research Nurse Team – Andrea, Laura and Emma

Haematology Clinical Research Nurses, Andrea Patterson and Emma Wilson, are joining the CEO of Cure Leukaemia, running 14km to support the Belfast TAP Centre.  TAP, which stands for the Trials Acceleration Programme, consists of a network of specialist research nurses to enable the accelerated setup and delivery of pioneering and potentially life-saving blood cancer clinical trials. NICTN are pleased to be part of the TAP network.

The run takes place on 18 November 2020 and information about how to support the Belfast TAP Centre is here:

Good luck to Andrea and Emma for the run and well done for highlighting this important work!

More about Cure Leukaemia here:

DARS Study Shows Benefit of Dysphagia-Optimised Radiotherapy in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer

Radiotherapy to the Head and Neck can cause significant throat and swallowing difficulties. Belfast was the highest recruiting centre taking part in the DARS clinical trial , a study that randomised patients to standard radiotherapy v dysphagia-optimised radiotherapy to evaluate swallowing post treatment. Early results, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference this year, revealed 40% of patients who received the dysphagia-optimised technique reported that they ‘could swallow as good as ever’ compared to 15% of patients in the standard radiotherapy arm. Other benefits of the dysphagia-optimised technique were significantly reduced dose to key swallowing muscles, improved patient-reported swallowing function and improved and speech & language therapist assessment of swallow function.

Dr Keith Rooney, Principal Investigator (PI) of the study in Belfast, reported;

‘This functional benefit using the more complex dysphagia-optimised technique is a game changer in radiotherapy planning for throat cancers and our physics and treatment planning team have been instrumental in demonstrating its benefits through involvement from the trial development stage through to participating in the quality assurance component of trial management. Our speech and language team worked closely with the trial coordinators to improve the swallowing assessments and have also participated in a further substudy within the trial using videofluoroscopy.

The combination of our entire research, planning and clinical team worked seamlessly to enable the success of the trial locally and we were the top performing centre with the highest number of patients recruited and continue to achieve  high completion of our follow-up assessments. In addition, Friends has been instrumental in enabling the trial to succeed through its support of our research and clinical teams.

Well done everyone!’

NICTN wishes to thank all the patients who are taking part in the study and congratulates the study team on these results, demonstrating dysphagia-optimised Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) will provide significant quality-of-life benefits to patients.

Read the study abstract here .

Some members of the DARS team: Left to right – Stacey Conway (Lead Clinical Research Radiographer), Dr Keith Rooney (PI, Consultant Oncologist), Oonagh Stewart (Clinical Research Radiographer), Dr Fionnuala Houghton (Consultant Oncologist), Aileen McGurran (Speech and language Therapist) and Dr John Lawson (Consultant Radiologist)

NICTN starts re-activating recruitment

Patient safety remains a priority of the NICTN.  At the outset of the local COVID-19 crisis NICTN suspended recruitment to the majority of clinical trials and other research studies.  In alignment with national guidance, NICTN is currently working to re-activate recruitment to studies, where this is feasible and safe.   Anyone who wishes to consider participation in a cancer clinical trial should discuss this with their doctor.

Results of the FAST-Forward study of radiotherapy for breast cancer

The NI Cancer Trials Network at Belfast Trust was one of several centres in the UK involved in the FAST-Forward study of radiotherapy for women following surgery for early breast cancer.

Between 2011 and 2014 over 4000 participants were randomly assigned to one of 3 arms:

  • 40Gy in 15 fractions (over 3 weeks – standard of care)
  • 27Gy in 5 fractions (over 1 week)
  • 26Gy in 5 fractions (over 1 week)

Five-year results are now published in the Lancet revealing a one-week course of radiotherapy in fewer but larger doses is as safe and effective as the standard three-week therapy.  Researchers have already seen a change in practice, reducing hospital visits for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as reducing demands on the health service.  Read more here.

Massive thanks to the staff and patients in Northern Ireland for their contribution to this study.

NICTN update – COVID-19

During the current COVID-19 crisis patient safety remains a priority for all our existing research patients.  NICTN has consequently taken the decision to suspend recruitment to the majority of clinical trials and other research studies until further notice.  This decision will remain under constant review.

Anyone with concerns about their treatment options should discuss this with their own doctor.