Dr Clare Verrill has recently been appointed the lead of workstream 4 (Technology and Informatics) within the Clinical Molecular Pathology (CM-Path) initiative.

The CM-Path programme brings together experts from pathology and other fields to build a stronger base of people and resources for the UK to undertake pathology research.

Tell us about your new role in the CM-Path initiative.

I’ve been appointed as the new workstream 4 lead (Technology and Informatics).  I was previously a member of workstream 2 (Clinical Trials) and I remain an honorary member of workstream 2! I am hoping to use the skills and experience I gained in workstream 2 as Tissue Access and Quality Assurance in Trials Sub Group lead to drive workstream 4 forwards.

In workstream 2, I worked on a survey assessing access to diagnostic material for clinical trials across the UK and also led a workshop on quality assurance in clinical trials which was held in London on 21 March 2017.  I very much enjoyed being in workstream 2 under Alex Freeman’s excellent leadership.  We achieved a lot as well as having quite a little bit of fun along the way and I am hoping to bring that mix to workstream 4.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role in CM-Path?

There are some amazing members within workstream 4 and I am really looking forward most to working with them and pulling all the different threads together. I think that there are many opportunities for CM-Path to take the lead in digital pathology nationally and am looking forward to working with Darren Treanor, Digital Pathology Sub Group lead on this. Also, these are exciting times in molecular diagnostics and I am looking forward to working alongside organisations such as Genomics England in this field with Sarah Coupland, Molecular Diagnostics Sub Group lead. We also have an Integrated Reporting Subgroup led by Simon Cross which is organising a workshop. I will be exploring opportunities to help develop training for consultants and Speciality Trainees in these fields.  And, I am very much looking forwards to setting up industry forums in digital pathology and also in molecular diagnostics.

What else do you do besides this role?

I am a urological pathology consultant, having achieved my CCT in 2008.  I work for Oxford University as Senior Lecturer in Pathology, but I spend approximately 50% of my time working for the NHS. My primary interests are testis and prostate and I am a member of the NCRI Teenagers and Young Adults and Testis Clinical Studies Group.  I have an academic group in Oxford, ”The Verrill Pathology Group” and we are focussing on digital pathology and image analysis in collaboration with individuals such as Jens Rittscher, Professor of Engineering Science in Oxford. I have been Lead for Molecular Pathology in Oxford Genomic Medicine Centre since 2014 and was part of the 100,000 Genomes pilot and now main programme. I am co-lead for the Testis GeCIP (Clinical Interpretation Partnership) as part of the 100,000 Genomes Project.   I set up the Oxford digital pathology academic forums and working groups, which have been very successful.  I am lead pathologist for a number of multisite clinical trials, including “PART – Partial Prostate Ablation Versus Radical Prostatectomy in Intermediate Risk Unilateral Clinically Localized Prostate Cancer” (PI Freddie Hamdy).  I have been HTA-DI for the Oxford University research licence since 2015.

What do you perceive to be the biggest challenges in pathology cancer research?

I think that the shortage of pathologists that we are about to face over the next few years, will mean that protected research time will be difficult to deliver.  I think that the timing is very bad as pathology is now key to several important initiatives such as 100,000 Genomes and also driving forwards digital pathology.  I think we need to encourage funding bodies and our institutions to provide us with time to be involved in such initiatives as many aspects need pathology input or even to be pathology led in order to make them feasible and deliverable.  With my workstream 4 hat on, I think research in the fields of digital pathology and image analysis are particularly tricky because achieving successful research funding is difficult and is often found in slightly different places than traditional medical research funding.  I think also that digital pathology requires knowledge in many aspects of working life that we would not usually stray into, such as procurement and intellectual property, not to mention IT!

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I have 2 young daughters and by the time I made sure they have got to school on time and have clean clothes to wear, there doesn’t seem to be much time for anything else.  I do enjoy swimming and a good meal out.

Photo by Richard Clyborne of Music Strive