Cambridge Independent Researcher of the Year 2018

Many congratulations to Dr Charlotte Coles for winning Researcher of the Year at the Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards 2018 for her practice-changing research on improving radiotherapy for patients with low risk early stage breast cancer.

In an interview with Cambridge Independent editor Paul Brackley, Dr Coles explains her research.

Dr Charlotte Coles, Reader in Breast Radiation Oncology, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Chief Investigator of the IMPORT LOW trial has found that low risk, early stage breast cancer patients who have radiotherapy targeted at the original tumour site experience fewer side effects five years after treatment than those who have whole breast radiotherapy. Her research also found that their cancer is just as unlikely to return.

These findings are already changing practice internationally. Partial breast radiotherapy is now recommended as standard of care for selected patients by the UK Royal College of Radiologists Breast Radiotherapy Consensus. It is now included in the new 2018 NICE guidelines (for patients at low risk of relapse) and has been developed as an impact case by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).

Dr Coles recevied the Researcher of the Year Award, sponsored by AstraZeneca/MedImmune, at a celebration evening on 1 November.

“I’m really delighted to receive this award and very grateful to CRUK for supporting this research. I represent a huge team of committed UK researchers who have worked together to achieve these results. We couldn’t have achieved this without the 2000+ women who participated in the trial and have made a real difference for future patients”, said Dr Coles.

The IMPORT LOW trial looks at ways of improving radiotherapy treatment for low risk early stage breast cancer. The trial recruited 2018 women aged 50 or over, who had breast conserving surgery for invasive ductal adenocarcinoma.

IMPORT LOW is the first phase III trial reporting 5-year outcome data for local relapse and adverse effects after partial breast radiotherapy delivered using standard external beam radiotherapy techniques. It is unique by including very comprehensive patient-reported outcome measures. At 5 years, partial breast radiotherapy delivered using a simple and standard technique, showed no increase in local relapse rates compared with whole breast radiotherapy, and produced equivalent or reduced late adverse effects. This technique is implementable worldwide with no/minimal additional resources using existing equipment.

IMPORT LOW is funded by Cancer Research UK and the trial is sponsored by the Institute of Cancer Research.

The results of IMPORT LOW were published in the Lancet and Charlotte and the rest of the research team were nominated for the UK British Medical Journal (BMJ) Research Paper 2018 award.

2 Nov 2018