Monday, 27 February 2017

Cancer treatment closer to home - Vicki Burns

Vicki Burns, chemotherapy outreach manager at The Christie

Vicki Burns
February has been a busy month for the outreach chemotherapy service. This month we have opened a new nurse led chemotherapy clinic at Tameside Hospital. The clinic will be held in the new ‘Tameside Macmillan Unit’. 

This new unit has been provided through a joint partnership between Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust and Macmillan. Initially, Christie chemotherapy nurses will host a treatment clinic from the unit twice weekly, increasing to three clinics a week in April. The new clinic will provide the opportunity for around 60 Tameside patients per week to receive their cancer treatment locally.

The Tameside clinic is just one of the many developments that my team and I have been involved with over the last few years.

I have worked as a nurse at The Christie since 2003 and have been in my current role as outreach chemotherapy manager since 2013. During this time, I have seen many changes to the chemotherapy service as it has evolved to cope with an ever increasing demand.

An important change in the last four years has been the focus on enabling patients to access their anti-cancer therapies closer to their homes.

Historically, The Christie has successfully worked in partnership with five other hospital trusts in Greater Manchester and Cheshire to provide local chemotherapy clinics to Christie patients. These clinics have enabled hundreds of patients per year to receive their treatment in their local hospital.

In 2012, we developed a new chemotherapy strategy to build on the success of the local hospital clinics and to ensure that the chemotherapy service would meet the demands placed on it over the following three years. The strategy mapped out a network of local provision that would benefit many of our patients living across Greater Manchester.

With patient experience at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the team set up two Christie chemotherapy clinics at health centres in Greater Manchester, run entirely by our chemotherapy nurses. The clinics located in Bury and Ashton proved very popular with our patients and enabled us to treat around 30 patients a week closer to home; these are patients who would otherwise need to make the journey to the main Withington site. Just months later, a third clinic was set up at Salford Royal Hospital, with Christie nurses treating a further 12 patients per week.

The next bold step for the team was to develop a mobile chemotherapy service. Through the amazing work of fundraisers and BBC Radio Manchester, The Christie charity was able to purchase a bespoke chemotherapy mobile unit. Launched in 2013, the unit visits five different locations throughout the week, treating patients in Rochdale, Trafford, Hyde, Chadderton and Bolton. Staffed by our own specialist chemotherapy nurses we are able to treat around 70 patients per week on this unit. The unit has proved extremely popular with our patients and has received excellent feedback. Patients have said that having their treatment locally has reduced anxiety, saved them time and money and made their treatment visit feel ‘less clinical’.

In 2014, we opened ‘The Christie at Wigan’ treatment unit. A joint venture between Wigan Wrightington and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust and The Christie, it offers the opportunity for around 70 patients per week from the Wigan area to receive their cancer treatment locally.

By the end of the three year chemotherapy strategy we had reached our objective with 80% of clinically suitable chemotherapy treatments being administered locally to our patients. The team’s hard work gained recognition from the Quality in Care programme and we won a prestigious award for the impact our service had made on patient experience. We were also thrilled to make the shortlist for two awards from the Nursing Times and Health Service Journal.

In 2015, new objectives were set and we knew we had much work ahead to ensure that the service could support future projected increases in chemotherapy treatments.

In the summer of 2015, we launched ‘Christie at Home’ which takes our chemotherapy nurses out into the community and into our patients’ homes. Over the past 12 months, the team has gone from strength to strength, developing the service to cover the whole of Greater Manchester and Cheshire.

The service currently provides treatments for breast cancer patients, but over the next six months we plan to expand further to be able to administer more treatments to patients with other cancer types.
2017 brings with it many more exciting plans for our chemotherapy outreach service, with additional clinics to be set up at health centres and local blood testing clinics; I know this year will be yet another important one for the service.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of all the chemotherapy team, the service has come such a long way in the last few years. We are on track to provide in excess of 18,000 chemotherapy treatments through our local clinics this year. Seeing the difference the service makes to our patients will always keep us moving forward. The outreach chemotherapy team is passionate about what we do and we are all so very proud and privileged to be in a position to make such a difference to our patients.

If patients are interested in finding out more about Christie chemotherapy services in the community, please contact the satellite chemotherapy outreach team on 0161 918 7654.

Monday, 20 February 2017

The results of the clinical trial I’m on for inflammatory breast cancer have been immense - Melanie O’Neill

Melanie O’Neill, Christie patient

Melanie O'Neill
Five and a half years ago, I began writing about my life with cancer.  With a following quickly growing in my local town, I began writing for my local paper’s website more and more regularly at

I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in May 2011 at Wigan hospital as I’d been previously misdiagnosed nine times elsewhere and my kids were only four and five then.

My symptoms were a red itchy patch of skin on my left breast, which was growing daily.  I had a constant dull ache there and I went up three bra cup sizes as it swelled rapidly. I knew something was wrong and over the last few months, having been told there was nothing wrong I started to google the symptoms myself.

One by one I was ticking off the ever increasing symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer, as they continued to get worse.  Thickening of the skin, inverted nipple, redness and swelling. It goes misdiagnosed and often found when it’s too late.  It does not show up on mammograms or ultrasound scans.

I was given a biopsy to get some answers, but that involved a three week wait. With all the symptoms being ticked off slowly but surely, the panic started to kick in.

When I went back to Wigan for the results they were inconclusive. So I was sent for an ultra sound and there the doctor diagnosed me with inflammatory breast cancer as it had now spread to my lymph nodes and the scan was able to show the spread.

My first emotion was relief. Someone was finally listening to me.  I wasn’t going mad. I wasn’t a hypochondriac. I had a name for what I had, but with only the knowledge of this “untreatable”, “when it’s found it’s too late” cancer that I had found from the internet.

Only days later I met Dr Gregory Wilson, who would then go on to be my oncologist for the foreseeable future.  He looked sincerely gutted when I told him how I had been let down previously. I started on chemotherapy just days later.

From the moment I met Dr Greg Wilson I knew he had compassion, something doctors aren’t trained in and very few see the importance of. After meeting my surgeon first, I was left wearing blood soaked bandages across my biopsied chest when I met my oncologist. When Greg pulled his chair up and took hold of both my hands, I felt cared for. I will never forget that moment and how precious that was to me when engulfed in fear and the increasingly suffocating, fretful emotions at that time.

Only a few weeks later I was at his clinic for my regular three-weekly check-ups where I was introduced to Julie Sexton, a complementary therapist for The Christie. Greg had arranged for her to set up a room in his clinic every Thursday, to help his patients in any way, to feel more relaxed.  And so I became friends with Julie who would massage my back or give reflexology whilst often drying my tears and putting the world to rights. It’s evident how much he cares for the wellbeing of his patients. I was also assigned a direct contact with Clare Gaskill my wonderful Macmillan nurse who is always there to help out when anything needs sorting.

Greg always had something else to offer whenever a chemo stopped working. In the midst of all this I took myself off to Brazil to see a spiritual healer, and a year later to a raw food institute to try and get better. I even took a second opinion from Dr Stephen Johnson from The Royal Marsden hospital in London. I always had faith in Dr Wilson but circumstance took me to London and instilled even more faith in him when Dr Johnson told me he would have made the exact same decisions as Dr Wilson.

Dr Wilson never stopped me from going or gave his opinion, and for that I will always be grateful along with, somehow, always having a plan for me. He even went above and beyond his call of duty when I asked him for his opinion on Kadcyla (chemotherapy) as I’d been asked by Roche, the manufacturers of many chemotherapies including Kadcyla, to do a presentation in Switzerland.  Even though he was away on holiday, he still helped me and my presentation awarding me a standing ovation.

Almost six years on from my initial diagnosis, I have now begun a clinical trial which has made an incredible improvement after just 1 dose.  It continues to work with minimal side effects for me, and I’m only on my third cycle. Oh I could write a book!  The clinical trial doctors, I have been assigned my own nurse, the ward… all amazing, including the results. Bonus!

With only a few months off here and there, I’ve been on chemotherapy almost continually for nearly six years, had two operations, light therapy, radiotherapy, and overall spent a ridiculous amount of money keeping well, taking supplements, homeopathy, massages etc. etc.  And then on top of all this

I was involved in a serious car accident where I suffered two brain bleeds and had to be taken by air ambulance to a brain trauma unit.

So I’ve had dealings with the psycho oncology team too. But the big man in the sky is not ready for me yet. Still holding on to hope. Still having faith that my cure is out there. I have every cell in my body believing in this clinical trial and so far…. it’s working. My kids don’t remember a time when I didn’t have cancer. I pray they’ll remember the day the doctors announce I’m in remission or ‘no evidence of disease’ as it’s known with inflammatory breast cancer. To be honest, I don’t care what it’s called as long as they can’t find it anymore.

To find out more about Clinical Trials at The Christie please visit or email or speak to your consultant.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

On World Cancer Day it’s important to remember that cancer doesn’t have boundaries and neither does The Christie - Sophie Kennedy

Sophie Kennedy, Head of International Business Development

Sophie Kennedy
On World Cancer Day it’s important to remember that cancer doesn’t have boundaries and neither does The Christie.

I love working at The Christie, it is unlike any hospital where I have worked or indeed, been a patient. The friendliness and caring approach of the staff and the time they are more than willing to give is exceptional. Alongside this we achieve fantastic clinical outcomes that help drive The Christie’s world class reputation, delivered by experts in their field that are able to ensure our patients are receiving the most appropriate treatment for them. 

That may sound like it is pulled from a marketing brochure but I speak from personal experience. I was diagnosed with skin cancer in the summer of last year. I was very lucky that we had caught it early and my treatment was successful. It enabled me to experience our services first hand so I know what I am talking about when I describe them to others and I am passionate about ensuring we are able to continue to deliver these amazing services.

On World Cancer Day it’s important to remember that cancer doesn’t have boundaries and neither does The Christie. We are lucky enough to attract some of the brightest minds and best clinicians from around the world to Manchester. We constantly reach out and look at what we can learn from others around the world and are very pleased to be part of a global community working together to provide the best services to patients worldwide and to further the battle against cancer.

We first developed our International strategy in 2013; it aims to promote The Christie’s concept of comprehensive cancer care internationally, deliver philanthropic support overseas and also to work with commercial partners in healthcare organisations globally to assist them to provide world class cancer services which are comparable to ours.

The Christie’s experience and skill of developing treatments and providing services for over 100 years in one of the largest radiotherapy centres internationally, the largest chemotherapy unit in the UK and using some of the most advanced surgical techniques means we are able to offer consulting services to other organisations who wish to set up similar services. We have recently been named as the most technologically advanced cancer centre outside North America, and we have also been rated as outstanding by the Care Quality Commission. 

Over the last three years we have reached far and wide across the globe and have worked with clients from many countries including:

Hong Kong
New Zealand
Sri Lanka

Our international services can be delivered in a number of ways. Sometimes we send our staff out to consult and to train within the overseas organisation, and other times clients have come to The Christie, either for observerships or for education and training. 

I have worked at The Christie for two years and have been promoting the international work over the last year. My aim is to build on the strong partnerships that we already have in the Trust with companies such as HCA for providing our private patient services; Alliance Medical for providing our PET CT imaging and Boots for our pharmacy service. All these partnerships provide essential additional income for the Trust, and help to support our services as NHS budgets come under increasing pressure.  

I have been working with a variety of teams across the Trust in order to pull a number of key products together that we can offer to our potential clients throughout the world. We have started with the following but will be looking to build on this in the future:

Strategic consultancy
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy service design 
Education and training
Second opinion consultancy service
Quality review

Each product can be offered independently or as part of a package. 

We will continue to work across the Trust developing products that we will promote through a variety of channels like the British embassies abroad, government organisations such as Healthcare UK and the UK International Healthcare Management Association (UKIHMA) and through partnerships with other healthcare and consultancy providers.

As I said when I started this blog, I love working at The Christie and I am so very lucky in my current job to be working alongside so many people who have a passion for their work too. Professors, doctors, radiotherapists, nurses, researchers, scientists, educators and project managers who are not only leading experts in their fields but who also have a passion for spreading The Christie’s expertise globally. 

If you’d like to get in touch to have a chat about our international work then please drop me a line at or if you would like to read our marketing brochure feel free to take a look at our website where you will be able to access The Christie International video and brochure.