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Trialling new potentially life-saving cancer treatments

Natural Sciences graduate Esther Poole tells us about her role at the Centre for Drug Development at Cancer Research UK

Natural Sciences graduate Esther Poole at Cancer Research UK
Natural Sciences graduate Esther Poole at Cancer Research UK
‘The breadth of skills I gained from studying a range of subjects is invaluable’
Esther Poole, Pharmacovigilance Scientist at Cancer Research UK

I work for Cancer Research UK as a lead Pharmacovigilance Scientist on early phase oncology clinical trials. My role involves monitoring drug safety and reporting side effects experienced by patients on our trials.

No two days the same

Working for Cancer Research UK is perfect for me because it allows me to use my degree to hopefully help improve the lives of patients.

My day-to-day work varies a lot and it is very unpredictable as we can’t easily anticipate the side effects a patient may experience on a new drug. Assessing the causality of a side effect can be difficult in cancer patients as they are often very ill already. It can be hard to determine whether it is due to the drug being trialled or another medical reason. I therefore need to work closely with Medical Advisors to ensure we are monitoring patient safety correctly.

Helping to change lives

I really enjoy looking for safety patterns, which is the medical side of my role. For example, attending dose review meetings, where we review the data from a cohort of a study and decide a safe dose for the next cohort. It’s inspiring to think that one day one of the drugs I’m working on could help improve or save the lives of patients with cancer.

A breadth of skills

My Natural Sciences degree was great because it allowed me to study biology, chemistry and pharmacology modules. The breadth of skills I gained from studying a range of subjects was invaluable and led to me developing a particular interest in oncology.

I also spent a placement year at Cancer Research UK as part of my degree. This was a great opportunity for me to gain experience and an increased understanding of clinical trials and the drug development process.

During my final year, Cancer Research UK asked whether I’d consider going back to work for them. After ten months working as a Medical Writing Assistant, I applied for and got the role of Pharmacovigilance Scientist, which was an area I wanted to specialise in. Luckily I found a job I loved as a result of my placement.

My advice to students

Do a placement! Whether it’s lab-based or office-based, it really is an invaluable experience and will open doors for when you graduate.

The Natural Sciences degree is a great way to keep studying a range of different subjects, until you’re sure which area you want to specialise in. It is a challenging course, but definitely rewarding and I can’t recommend it enough.

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