Manchester cancer doctors receive top international award

Two Christie doctors have been hailed “rising stars” after being selected as the next generation of leaders in cancer research.

Dr Sarah Valpione and Dr Rebecca Lee were awarded this esteemed prize among just 12 others by The European Society for Medical Oncology, Europe’s leading professional body for oncology.

Roger Spencer, chief executive of the Christie, said: “They truly are rising stars in their field and we’re very proud of their achievement, it’s a privilege to have them here at The Christie benefitting patients.”

He said the ESMO usually accept only one oncologist per institution to its leader generation programme but made a rare exception to offer places to two doctors from the Manchester institute. 

The two doctors went through a sequence of intense training and workshops during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Sarah Valpione (left) and Dr Rebecca Lee (right)

Dr Valpione, 39, said: “The fact that the programme took place and was successfully completed during the pandemic is a proof of the resilience of oncology. Patients can be reassured that we will keep the work going despite everything.

“It was a wonderful experience, and I am sure my patients and colleagues will benefit from what I learned and the new collaboration network the programme provided.”

She works as a consultant and honorary clinical scientist at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, researching and developing both techniques and equipment to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. 

Her ground-breaking discoveries from studies she pioneered – on the biology of cells which are able to kill cancer cells – have been published in leading scientific journals Nature Cancer and Nature Communications.

Dr Lee, 40, is also a consultant oncologist at The Christie and works as a senior lecturer in medical oncology at The University of Manchester.

Dr Lee did a PhD where she examined precision medicine approaches to skin cancer treatment and regularly assists the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute in their design of studies to help those with cancer which has spread to the liver.

Precision medicine is a relatively new concept which considers an individual’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle in order to select a treatment that may work most efficiently for them.

She also assists in clinical trials on DNA that comes from cancerous cells and tumours (ctDNA).

She said: “Training at The Christie has given me a fantastic foundation in oncology. The recognition by ESMO of this, and the opportunity to learn further from top international oncologists, as well as the network it provides, will help me to develop new treatment strategies for patients with melanoma.”

The two melanoma specialists were given their ESMO Leaders Generation Programme certificate at their graduation ceremony in Paris at the Museum d’Orsay.

The Christie Foundation aim to provide the best outcomes and experiences to patients, and with fundamental research like that of Dr Valpione and Dr Lee’s, this is made even more achievable.

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