Solving Kids’ Cancer funds a dedicated Senior Trials Coordinator for Neuroblastoma within the Children’s Cancer Trials Team (CCTU) of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU), University of Birmingham.

Our project grant: £277,410

Date of award: February 2018


Since 2010 Birmingham CRCTU has received core funding from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) to deliver the UK’s national childhood cancer trials portfolio. As a result, the Children’s Cancer Trials Team in the CRCTU now delivers the vast majority of academic clinical trials in children’s cancer and leukaemia across the UK, including cooperative international trials where the UK is a participating member. Since the CRCTU assumed responsibility for the portfolio in 2010 the number of clinical trials within it has more than doubled.

All clinical trials delivered by CRCTU undergo independent peer-review, normally by the relevant funding body i.e. NIHR, EU funding call, CRUK or other AMRC affiliated funding body and all are adopted on the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) clinical trials portfolio.

Core-funded staff members at the CRCTU (including statisticians, senior trial managers, quality management and database programming and IT staff) are responsible for the trial development process including design, feasibility assessment and trial-specific grant applications. If a funding application is successful they then become responsible for the trial protocol and case report forms, database development, and trial regulatory submissions including to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA), Research Ethics, and Health Research Authority (HRA).

Ongoing trial set up and trial management is undertaken by staff supported by trial-specific grant funding.

Why is there a need for increased capacity?

The expansion of the trial portfolio since 2010 has not been matched by an increase in core funding for the unit. The nature of clinical trial management, requiring careful adherence to Standard Operating Procedures and a need to work within complex regulatory frameworks, means delivering progress is often a slow and burdensome task. Where multiple trials are in setup or being prepared for submission for funding at the same time, there have been capacity constraint issues that have required prioritisation, resulting in delays getting trials open for enrolment in the hospital.

How will this new role make a difference?

The Solving Kids’ Cancer Senior Trials Coordinator for Neuroblastoma is the first such position dedicated to a single childhood cancer. 

Dr Emmanouela Gbandi - recruited to the post in February 2018 - and her replacement, Dr Emma Pond, recruited in June 2019 was/is responsible for all neuroblastoma trials on the portfolio. She is the single point of contact within CRCTU for investigators, from the UK and across Europe, designing and developing clinical research projects that will benefit children with neuroblastoma in the UK. Many of the neuroblastoma trials that are opened in the UK are cooperative group studies developed through collaborative research networks such as SIOPEN or ITCC.

As part of her new role, Dr Pond will interface directly with the National Cancer Research Institute’s neuroblastoma specialist sub-group comprised of leading researchers responsible for designing, launching and running clinical trials in the UK, thus building relationships and a sense of shared ownership of the neuroblastoma clinical research portfolio.

By managing and coordinating the portfolio of neuroblastoma clinical trials from CRCTU, Dr Pond will both increase the capacity of the clinical trials unit to deliver more trials for children with neuroblastoma in the UK and internationally, and ensure the process is more efficient – thus allowing trials to be developed and conducted as quickly as possible.

Dr Gbandi said of her appointment in 2018:

“Being dedicated to trials for a particular type of childhood cancer means I can develop specialist knowledge, spot synergies between trials and troubleshoot any problems quickly. We can’t rush clinical trial regulations but we can work in a more integrated way to streamline the process, understand the intricacies of the disease and design better trials. Being close to and involved with the families and Solving Kids’ Cancer is immensely rewarding as it helps me see the real impact of what research can do.”