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.

Dr David Montgomery visits NI Cancer Trials Network, 22 January 2020

Dr Melanie Morris (NICTN), Dr David Montgomery (PCUK) and Prof Joe O’Sullivan (QUB/BHSCT) 22.01.20

During a visit to the FASTMAN Centre of Excellence in Belfast, Dr David Montgomery, Prostate Cancer UK Executive Director, met with some members of the NI Cancer Trials Network. Topics discussed included current research, personal and public involvement in research and future directions.  FASTMAN is a Belfast-Manchester prostate cancer research collaboration funded by PCUK/Movember.

John’s Journey with Prostate Cancer – shared for World Cancer Research Day

The NICTN is indebted to Mr John Creswell, who has shared his account of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, including participation in the SPORT study at the NI Cancer Centre, Belfast.  Mr Creswell and his wife visited the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast, during celebrations for World Cancer Research Day, 24 September 2019.  During the event John met up with researcher Dr Ciaran Fairmichael (see photo below).

John has willingly shared his story to help raise awareness of cancer research.   NICTN wishes to thank John, and fellow participants in cancer clinical trials, without whom we would be unable to advance cancer treatments.

Read about John’s journey here:

John’s Journey with Prostate Cancer 24.09.19

NICTN and NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum Celebrate World Cancer Research Day

The NICTN and members of the NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum (NICRCF) got involved in a variety of activities to raise awareness of cancer research in Northern Ireland for World Cancer Research Day, 24 September 2019.

In Antrim Hospital, CRUK co-funded Clinical Research Nurses Philip McAuley and Alison Begg raised awareness of cancer clinical trials (see photo below).

NICTN staff and members of the NICRCF attended a tour of the NI Precision Medicine Centre in the Health Sciences Building and visited the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, QUB.  NICTN staff and Forum members alike were inspired by what they saw and heard, and wish to thank QUB for organising the visit and thank researchers and NI Biobank staff for their tour and time discussing current innovations in cancer resesarch (see photos attached).

World Cancer Day Tour Precision Medicine Centre and CCRCB QUB photos 24.09.19

Ovarian Cancer Public Information Event In Memory of Esteemed Colleague Angela Hogg 18 June 2019

Speakers (Lt-Rt) Professor Gordon Jayson, Dr Mark McComiskey, Dr Laura Feeney, Professor Richard Wilson, Mrs Julia Tolan

Staff of Belfast Trust and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) welcomed the public and charities to an ovarian cancer information event held in the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB), QUB, 18 June 2019. The symposium, highlighting innovation in ovarian cancer research and care, was organised by NI Cancer Trials Network (NICTN) and pharmacy staff of the Belfast City Hospital in honour and recognition of their sadly and much missed colleague Angela Hogg, a passionate advocate of cancer research throughout her career and treatment for ovarian cancer.

During arrival and refreshments information stands were provided by representatives of the NICTN, NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum, Macmillan Information and Support Centre at Belfast Trust, Northern Ireland Biobank, Cancer Research UK and Cancer Lifeline. A variety of leaflets and materials were also provided by the charities Target Ovarian Cancer, Ovacome and the Eve Appeal.

Professor Chris Scott, CCRCB’s Acting Scientific Director, kicked off proceedings welcoming everyone to the Centre and providing an overview of CCRCB’s cancer research vision. The programme for the afternoon was chaired by Professor Richard Wilson, Honorary Professor in Cancer Medicine, CCRCB and Professor of Gastrointestinal Oncology at the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre, Glasgow. Richard worked with Angela over many years and he fondly recounted her vital role in cancer clinical trials and valued membership of the early phase multi-professional team. Julia Tolan, Professional Manager Pharmacy Services, Specialist and Community Services in Belfast Trust gave a moving tribute to Angela, describing her enthusiasm as Pharmacy Technician and her boundless thoughtfulness for colleagues.

Leading the talks on ovarian cancer, Professor Gordon Jayson, Christie Hospital Manchester, gave a comprehensive overview of current treatment approaches and described the research programme being conducted at the Christie Hospital (see link to slides below). Dr Laura Feeney, Clinical Research Fellow/Medical Oncology Trainee, CCRCB, illustrated the work she is currently undertaking to determine a blood biomarker for the early detection of ovarian cancer (see link to slides below).

Following refreshments, Dr Mark McComiskey, Consultant Gynaecologist at the Belfast City Hospital, described surgical advances in ovarian cancer with a particular focus on the evolution of surgery for recurrent ovarian cancer (see link to slides below).  The final speaker, Rachel Smith, Cancer Focus NI Family Service Manager, provided guidance on communicating with children when a significant adult has cancer.

Following these enlightening presentations, a lively Q&A session further demonstrated how relatable and helpful the speakers all were. Patients/public and professionals all contributed to the session and many of the sixty attendees remarked on the success of the event.

Formal feedback indicated the contribution of all the speakers, hearing about future developments in treatment and diagnosis of ovarian cancer and information about family services, had been very useful.

Note: Healthcare professionals wishing to undertake a short e-learning module on helping parents with cancer tell their children can link to ‘Cancer Conversations’ Cancer Focus NI training.

The organisers and staff are extremely grateful for the support and attendance of Angela’s dear family and friends, who contributed so much to the occasion.

See link to photographs from the event below.

Photos Ovarian Cancer Event in Memory Angela Hogg 18.06.19 CCRCB

Prof Gordon Jayson Ovarian Cancer 2017-19 18.06.19

Dr Mark McComiskey Surgical Advances in Ovarian Cancer 18.06.19

Dr Laura Feeney Early detection biomarkers in ovarian cancer 18.06.19

Internation Clinical Trials Day – ‘Be Part of Research’

To mark International Clinical Trials Day staff of the NI Cancer Trials Network and members of the NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum set up a clinical trials information area in the foyer of the Cancer Centre on Friday 17th May. Staff, researchers, patients and visitors were invited to write a comment as part of a new campaign launched by HSC R&D ‘Be Part of Research’.  As time went by the notice board was swiftly covered in messages.  Passionate support for research at the NI Cancer Centre was obvious, as was the active teamwork involved.  Research has made a difference and is making a difference in the lives of patients.  Research is how we improve our services, treatment and care, now and in the future.

Thank you to all who participated in the celebration!

Click here to view a slideshow of NICTN photos taken for Be Part of Research ICTD


Ovarian Cancer ‘Innovations in Research and Care’ Tuesday 18th June FREE PUBLIC EVENT

The Northern Ireland Cancer Trials Network are pleased to announce that we will be holding another public information event!  Join us for this FREE public information event focused on Ovarian Cancer to listen to our wonderful speakers and learn more about ‘Innovations in Research in Care’.
It will be held in the Centre for Cancer Reseach and Cell Biology (CCRCB)  2-4pm Tuesday 18th June with information stands and tea/coffee available during the event internal. If you are interested or would like more information please contact Amy on 028 9063 8468 or email
Click the above image to enlarge the event poster
Please click on the link below to view further details of the event agenda

Margaret Grayson awarded MBE for Services to Cancer Research at Buckingham Palace

Margaret Grayson, Chair of the NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum (NICRCF), received an MBE at Buckingham Palace 5th February 2019. Margaret is a trailblazer in Personal and Public Involvement (PPI) in cancer research.  NICRCF Chairperson since the group was established in 2011, Margaret has demonstrated outstanding leadership.  She is an exemplary ambassador for PPI, working enthusiastically with healthcare professionals and scientists in cancer research, influencing research and PPI at local and national levels. She is a member of many com


mittees and research steering groups and she is a PPI workshop facilitator.   Margaret’s energetic and constructive approach always brings fresh insight and maximises patient benefit.

Margaret received the award from Prince William. The NICTN, NICRCF, HSC R&D, Cancer Research UK and all who know Margaret are delighted she has received recognition for her services to cancer research. Congratulations Margaret!!


Creating a Brighter Future Together – NICTN and the NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum Celebrate Cancer Research and PPI at Event to Launch new PPI Strategy

The NI Cancer Trials Network (NICTN) and NI Cancer Research Consumer Forum (NICRCF) wish to thank everyone involved and all who joined them at their new Personal and Public Involvement (PPI) Strategy launch event 26 March 2019 in the Belfast City Hospital.

While looking ahead to the future, the event was also a celebration of current local cancer research and successful partnership working. Margaret Grayson (NICRCF Chairperson) welcomed everyone and Margaret and Ruth Boyd (CRUK Senior Nurse and NICTN/ECMC PPI Professional Lead) kicked-off the presentations with a profile of PPI, an overview of the work of the NICRCF and a review of the new strategy’s goals.  The goals are to:

  • further embed a culture of partnership working in cancer research
  • provide sustainable support for the NICRCF to enable PPI in cancer research to grow
  • maximise the impact of PPI through best practice and standards


The strategy is now out for consultation until the end of June 2019 – all comments are very welcome!

The agenda for the afternoon also covered developments in treatment and care across a range of cancers.

Mr Stuart McIntosh (Clinical Senior Lecturer, QUB, Consultant Breast Surgeon, Belfast Trust, Acting Clinical Director NICTN) explained that clinical trials were available across Northern Ireland, co-ordinated by the NICTN. Stuart explained that within breast cancer research there were several themes that were evident:

  • de-escalation of treatment – to minimise unnecessary side-effects
  • precision – to ensure treatment is tailored to an individual’s specific tumour
  • increasing collaboration across professionals and including patient representation
  • increasing patient expectation to receive clinical research options as part of standard practice
  • During a refreshment break the 85 people attending the event, from across Trusts, universities, charities, patients and public, had the opportunity to access information from a number of services, charities and research funders, alongside information from the NICTN and NICRCF. We are very grateful for the information stands and representatives of:
  • NICRCF members Hazel Carson (BRCA Link NI and CIBRAC study Trial Management Group) and Dr Sandra Irvine, PPI representative in regional and national bowel cancer research groups, joined Stuart and Philip on a panel during a Q&A session. Members of the audience asked questions leading to discussion about bowel cancer screening availability, the role of a PPI representative, national developments in bowel cancer research and breast cancer trials.
  • Dr Philip Dunne (Lecturer in Early Cancer Detection, Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast) outlined the development of bowel cancer at tumour and cellular levels, highlighting how molecular profiling of tissue in the laboratory is enabling the development of personalised treatment. Biomarkers can help to predict an individual’s sensitivity to particular treatment, helping doctors select treatments for patients with most benefit and fewer side-effects. Philip also emphasised the value of bowel cancer screening in early detection.
  • A number of studies were outlined in the settings of prevention, ductal carcinoma in-situ, early invasive breast cancer, post-operative radiotherapy and chemotherapy before surgery. Stuart advocated the value of patient representative membership in the study management groups for the trials he was leading on.
  • HSC R&D
  • NI Biobank
  • Friends of the Cancer Centre
  • OGCancerNI
  • Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI
  • Belfast Trust PPI
  • Macmillan Information and Support Centre
  • Cancer Research UK

Dr Ciaran Fairmichael (Clinical Research Fellow, QUB, ST6 Clinical Oncology Doctor, NI Cancer Centre, Belfast Trust) provided an encouraging overview of how local cancer trials were having a positive impact on outcomes for men with prostate cancer. Ciaran described early results from the ADRRAD and SPORT trials and explained how these treatment advances are transforming care in Northern Ireland.

NICRCF member Kate Burns was the next speaker. Kate provided a very moving and eloquent personal insight into her husband Paul’s experience of life with prostate cancer until, sadly, Paul died in 2014.  Kate described the transition of ‘person to patient’ and the significance of holistic care throughout treatment, research and palliative care.  Paul had shared his story at a NICRCF public event back in 2012, so the NICTN/NICRCF were particularly delighted and humbled that Kate spoke at this event.

Dr Olinda Santin concluded the presentations with an honest and enjoyable description of the valuable impact involvement of NICRCF members had on a project to develop support for carers. Through these discussions the project changed direction, resulting in the development of a website, designed with and for carers.  This website ‘Cancer Caring Coping’ has already been adopted internationally and provides a unique and accessible resource for carers.

The event concluded with a final Q&A panel, where Ciaran, Kate and Olinda were joined by NICRCF members Ken McBride and NICTN Operational Director Dr Melanie Morris. Melanie thanked speakers and along with Kate highlighted how valuable the carer website would be. Questions from the audience lead to discussion about treatments for prostate cancer available in Northern Ireland, and Ken described why he had taken the decision to participate in a clinical trial.

Margaret concluded the event and many attendees took copies or summaries of ‘A Strategy for PPI in Cancer Research in Northern Ireland’ or other information.

The NICTN and NICRCF were delighted with the positive reaction of the audience to the event. Comments received included:

  • Fascinating to learn about scope of clinical research in NI & hear from doctors, patients and other affected people
  • High quality of the presentations and guest speakers
  • Patient story was really helpful in understanding contribution & PPI modifying research
  • Kate Burns’ talk was very moving- an inspirational representative for the forum
  • Olinda’s website is incredibly useful
  • Current prostate cancer research very informative and the emphasis on carer resources
  • Evaluation was also unanimously positive, frequently describing the event as excellent.


Some Speakers and Panel Members (Lt-Rt) Back Row: Mr Stuart McIntosh (BHSCT/QUB), Dr Philip Dunne (QUB) Front Row: NICRCF members – Kate Burns, Sandra Irvine, Margaret Grayson, Hazel Carson and Dr Olinda Santin (QUB)


Speakers Dr Olinda Santin (QUB) and Dr Ciaran Fairmichael (BHSCT/QUB)












Click the links below for more pictures fom our event!

Strategy event pictures 1 

Strategy event pictures 2