Christie consultants made professors

Press release posted 27 September 2016 

Three consultants from The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, one of Europe’s leading cancer centres, have been made professors. 

Fiona Blackhall, Paul Lorigan and Tim Somervaille have all been honoured with professorships from The University of Manchester. 

Prof Blackhall is honorary consultant in medical oncology. She joined The Christie in Withington as a consultant in 2005 and specialises in lung cancer research.

She said: “There is a major unmet need for better treatments for patients with lung cancer. At The Christie it is possible to work with leading scientists at The University of Manchester and also the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute. It is a privilege to be part of a wider team that is focused on lung cancer research.”

Prof Blackhall was educated at St Andrews and Manchester universities. She began medical oncology training at The Christie in 1995 and was awarded a four-year Cancer Research Campaign Research PhD Fellowship for a Clinician in 1997 at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester before spending two years at Princess Margaret Hospital and Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto to further develop skills in lung cancer research.

In 2012, Prof Blackhall was awarded The Christie Senior Researcher of the Year. She is the clinical lead for lung cancer at The Christie, and Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) lung cancer research strategy lead. She is also the clinical trials theme lead for the recently established Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, a research partnership between The University of Manchester and University College London.

She collaborated with Prof Caroline Dive at Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute to develop ‘liquid biopsies’ for patients with lung cancer for personalised medicine to improve outcomes.

As honorary consultant in medical oncology, Prof Lorigan has worked for The Christie for 14 years. He leads a research-based clinical practice, specialising in developing new treatments in melanoma. He works closely with Prof Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, developing an individualised, personalised medicine approach for patients with melanoma. Prof Lorigan is chair of Melanoma Focus, the UK-based charity, and chair of the Advanced Disease Subgroup of the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer Group, developing clinical trials for patients in the UK and Europe.

He graduated from Trinity College, University of Dublin in 1986 and in 1996 was appointed honorary consultant and senior lecturer in medical oncology at The University of Sheffield and Weston Park Hospital. In 2002 he was appointed honorary consultant and senior lecturer at The Christie and The University of Manchester.

Prof Lorigan said: “Manchester is one of the leading centres internationally for the research and treatment of melanoma. The collaboration between our partners and The Christie  has allowed us to deliver practice changing research which has a huge impact on patients. I feel very proud and privileged to be part of this great team. 

The Christie has a long history of research breakthroughs and our research portfolio includes a range of drug trials across all phases. This ground-breaking research is made possible through the support of our partnership with The University of Manchester, and our specialist research facilities.  

"The opening of the new Manchester Cancer Research Centre on The Christie site, a £28.5 million research facility, and a partnership between The Christie, The University of Manchester and Cancer Research UK,  provides space for university cancer researchers as well as clinical trials support staff. This will help us to achieve our vision of personalised cancer treatments, leading directly to better patient outcomes.”

Prof Somervaille, who lives in Didsbury, Manchester, has worked as honorary consultant in haematology at The Christie since 2008 and is a leading expert in leukaemia research. He graduated in medicine and haematology in London, studying at both Imperial College and University College London, before moving in 2003 to Stanford University in the US as a Bloodwise Senior Clinical Research Fellow. 

He returned to the UK in 2007 to establish his research group at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute where he now leads a team of researchers working to improve understanding of how normal blood cells turn into leukaemia cells. A core focus of his team is the development of better treatments for patients with diseases such as acute myeloid leukaemia and myelofibrosis. In addition to researching new treatments in the laboratory, he leads a number of UK and European clinical trials of new drugs for patients with difficult to treat diseases.

He said: "The Christie and the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute are wonderful places to work and provide every opportunity to discover new and innovative ways to understand and treat cancers such as acute leukaemia. I am hugely grateful to charities such as Cancer Research UK, Bloodwise and the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund who have made it possible for me and my team to make the contribution to research that we have made.”

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