The Christie is one of Europe's leading cancer centres and our five year strategy aims to enhance our world-leading status. While we have ambitions to continually grow and improve, our aims will always remain the same - to deliver the highest quality care and treatment with real patient benefits.
We are proud to provide patients with the best standards of care in a world class cancer centre.
Elaine Blowers, former divisional lead research nurse at The Christie
Elaine Blowers (left)
Before her recent retirement, The
Christie’s most senior research nurse and operational director for the National
Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Manchester Clinical Research Facility
(CRF) at The Christie, Elaine Blowers, shared some of her proudest moments, the
key developments she’s seen in experimental research during her career, her
reasons for getting involved in research nursing and her hopes for the future.
Looking back, my initial interest in clinical trials came
when I was a student nurse in Birmingham and participated as a healthy
volunteer in early phase clinical trials of cardiac drugs. I recall being
intensely monitored all day long and was given a fried breakfast to test the
effects of the drug with a fatty diet - I got paid too which helped me with my
I qualified as a registered nurse at
the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham in 1986 and worked in a number of
roles such as coronary care and acute medicine before moving hospitals and
working in oncology at the Dudley Road hospital in Handsworth, Birmingham. From
there I pursued my interest in oncology and started my science degree at the
Royal Marsden, working at both the Fulham Road and Sutton sites. I went on to
work at Mount Vernon regional cancer centre as a senior nurse manager in
oncology before moving to St Mary’s in Paddington to a take up a clinical nurse
specialist post in breast cancer.
I became a Macmillan nurse specialist
for Mount Vernon and Watford General hospital before moving to the North West
in 2000 where I worked for Healthcare at Home Ltd, delivering chemotherapy and
long term treatments in patient’s homes and clinics in the North West. Through
this role, I became involved in a clinical research trial being conducted at
The Christie where part of the trial involved delivering treatment in patient’s
homes as one of the trial arms for breast cancer patients.
I was approached by the breast cancer
research team to apply for a research nurse post and was successful. As a
breast cancer research nurse, I was part of a team that became one of the most
successful breast cancer research teams in the UK and I was one of two first
nurse advisors for the breast ncri clinical studies group. I became the breast
research nurse team leader in 2007. In 2014, I was appointed as the operational
director for the NIHR/CRUK CRF at The Christie and divisional lead research
The NIHR is the part of the NHS that
helps to fund clinical research, and the Clinical Research Facility at The
Christie is one of four centres in Manchester that have joined together to
provide integrated health research across Greater Manchester.
I’m very proud to have had the
opportunity to work at The Christie. As a specialist centre, all staff are
committed to ensuring patients and their families have the best possible
experience and care. Staff are proud to work here and care for each other; they
continually look for opportunities for innovation and are supported in making
change for patients’ benefit. Walking through the hospital, people acknowledge
each other and it normally takes me quite a few minutes to get to my office in
the morning as I talk to staff and patients along the way.
Patients at The Christie are always
pleased that they have been given the opportunity to participate in a clinical
trial as one of their treatment options. They feel special and confident being
cared for in a dedicated research centre with highly trained research staff and
receiving the best care. They hope that the trial will make a difference to
their health, although they also understand that it is a trial and therefore
may not benefit them directly but they are pleased to be able to make a
difference for their own and their children’s future and are aware that it’s
only through trials that we learn if a new treatment is better than the current
best treatment we have available.
I am thrilled to have been fortunate
enough to be involved in a number of breast cancer trials where drugs from an
early phase trial have gone on to become standard care for patients, for
example, Herceptin, Perjeta and Lapatinib. This is not a daily occurrence, as
only a small number of drugs are both clinically more effective and also pass
through all the safety phases before being licensed for standard care delivery.
One of the major breakthroughs I was
involved with back in 2003/2004, which was unprecedented, was when early
results indicated that Herceptin improved outcomes for early breast cancer. It
was a very rewarding experience and reaffirmed the reason why I wanted to be a
clinical research nurse - to make a difference to patients’ outcomes.
Since 2017 when NIHR/CRUK Christie CRF
, NIHR/Wellcome Trust Manchester CRF and
NIHR South Manchester Respiratory and Allergy CRF came together to form the NIHR Manchester CRF,
I have played a key role in driving the successful integration of the
Manchester CRF. This collaborative bid for NIHR funding, which brought the previous
CRFs in Manchester together under one single management structure, has helped
to create the largest (and hopefully most influential) NIHR CRF in the UK.
I was also delighted to have helped organise
the UKCRF annual conference in Manchester in 2016. The conference was the first
time that the Manchester CRFs came together to work collaboratively before the
formal bid to become one Manchester CRF. I played a key role in winning the
open competition to host it in Manchester along with Professor Andrew Wardley.
Looking back, I’ve seen a lot of
changes over the years. There has been an increase in the complexity of
delivering experimental cancer medicine trials and the science behind them
since I started. And whilst the increasing number of trials for personalised
medicine and targeted treatments is wonderful for the patients who are
eligible, it brings its own challenges of screening large volumes of patients
to find the right patient with an identified mutation and then to receive the
appropriate treatment for this in the context of a trial.
I’ve also seen a big increase in
digitalisation at a number of levels in clinical research, from using IT to set
up and conduct clinical trials to the use of IT devices by patients to inform
decisions whilst participating in experimental cancer medicine trials.
One of the most rewarding changes has
been that clinical research nursing has been recognised as a speciality in
nursing in its own right – and now has its own clinical research nursing
I‘m really going to miss the wonderful
staff that I have had the privilege to work with over many years - especially
the clinical research nurses who demonstrate such commitment and passion for
this very specialised complex area of nursing on a daily basis.
Looking ahead, I’m leaving behind an
amazing team. The redesign and reconfiguration of the Manchester CRF facilities
at The Christie in 2017/18 have ensured that patients now have a dedicated
reception area and there is a big increase in space for experimental trial
delivery. Thousands of patients will benefit from this fantastic facility in
Moreover, I hope that a growing number
of patients will have access to experimental cancer medicine trials and to clinical
trials closer to their home.
I also hope that the NIHR Manchester
CRF will go from strength to strength and continue to be the most successful
and largest CRF in the UK, in addition to receiving growing international
recognition for the superb work being done.
It’s been a
privilege to work at The Christie and to help so many fantastic and inspiring