As we head towards Christmas and New Year, I thought the time was right to reflect on my first few months as NCRI’s Chief Executive Officer and look ahead to what’s in store in 2019.

There isn’t room to cover everything over the last five months, but I’ve met most of the Partner representatives, and heard of how you’d like us to work together.

Obviously, with such a diverse partnership, needs are very different and I’m working with the NCRI Executive to ensure that we listen to our Partner organisations and work closely with them to deliver on our ambitious strategy to accelerate progress in cancer research.

Being in the action: research partnerships

As well as fostering collaboration amongst our 19 Partner organisations, we work with over 1500 researchers and clinicians who advise us on key areas in cancer research. I was amazed to discover that in addition to our 18 Clinical Studies Groups (CSGs), those CSGs are supported by 70 subgroups.

I’ve tried very hard to get around most of the CSGs and I know, like with children and pets, I’m not allowed to have favourites, but I do want to highlight my experience of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia CSG – an area of research which is particularly difficult in so many ways. I found myself in a room full of experts, all of whom wanted to make sure that research proposals for clinical trials were of the highest quality. Listening to the discussions brought home to me the difference that NCRI is making through the work of all CSGs (and sub groups!).

Recently, Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (a leading UK children’s cancer charity and professional association) posted a really helpful film of how to support families affected by cancer at Christmas. If like me, you find starting such conversations, or knowing when and how to offer help difficult, you might find looking at this useful. I did.

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You’ll have spotted above that I mentioned a room full of experts. That room also included our Consumers; these are patients, carers, people affected in some way by cancer – our ‘experts by experience’ that feed in to all NCRI’s collaborative activities, ensuring that they remain focused on patient benefit. There is a lot of activity in this area and I am fully committed to building on their success and supporting the NCRI Consumer Forum across all areas of NCRI’s work.

My first five months have been hectic, but I see it simply as preparation for the year ahead – we have lots to do!

What’s in store in 2019

I’ve set my stall out on building our communications and engagement with everyone who wants to support us and that’s my priority for the New Year. The first few months of 2019 will see us working with our Board of Trustees to develop a business plan for the remaining three years of our strategy. We will build on the success of the NCRI Cancer Conference, held in the great city of Glasgow for the first time this year.  Next year, the NCRI Cancer Conference will return to Glasgow and we will be celebrating a special milestone –  its 15 year anniversary!

Following our partnership with the James Lind Alliance to identify the UK Top living with and beyond cancer research priorities, we will be working with the research community to develop them into high quality grant applications that, if successful, will make a huge difference to so many people. This video summarises nicely what the priorities are about and why they are important.

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Ultimately, we all want to see the highest quality research that will make the biggest difference being funded. This film sums up to me in a simple and eloquent way why we need to keep doing what we do.

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We are working in uncertain and frankly difficult times and there are many threats to achieving success through research; Brexit and NHS workforce and capacity are currently top of my list of concerns. However, in my first five months I’ve seen an enormous amount of determination across funders, researchers, consumers, regulators and the NCRI Executive and I look forward to working with all of you in 2019 to accelerate progress in cancer research.

— Wishing you a Happy Christmas and all the very best for 2019 —