Two Christie oncologists receive top international award

Two oncologists from The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester have been selected, along with just 12 other European cancer specialists, as the next generation of leaders in oncology.

Dr Sara Valpione (39) came to Manchester from Italy in 2015 as a Research Fellow and has been a consultant at The Christie for a year and honorary clinical scientist at Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute.

Dr Sara Valpione
Caption: Dr Sara Valpione 

Dr Rebecca Lee (40) completed her Clinical Research Training Fellowship in 2018, and as well as becoming a consultant oncologist at The Christie, she is a senior lecturer in medical oncology at The University of Manchester, and postdoctoral clinical fellow at The Francis Crick Institute.

Dr Rebecca Lee
Caption: Dr Rebecca Lee

The award, designed for oncologists 40 and under, is gifted by ESMO, the European Society for Medical oncology, Europe’s leading professional body for oncology. To gain the ESMO Leaders Generation Programme certificate, both women went through a series of training and workshops and received their certificates during a graduation ceremony at the Museum d’Orsay in Paris.

Both melanoma specialists, Dr Valpione has a particular interest in studying the immune system and has already made some game-changing discoveries including pioneering studies on the biology of T lymphocytes (cells of the immune system with the potential to kill cancer cells) in cancer patients published in leading scientific journals like Nature Cancer and Nature Communications.

Dr Lee’s PhD examined precision medicine approaches to melanoma treatment and is working closely with the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute to help design studies to improve outcomes for patients with melanoma that has spread to the liver and clinical trials on circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA). 

Roger Spencer, chief executive of The Christie said: “There’s enormous competition to be offered a place on this prestigious programme. The intensive course is designed for Europe’s most talented young oncologists who will shape the future of the profession.  ESMO usually only selects one oncologist per institution to its Leaders Generation Programme, so to make an exception demonstrates how strong both Sara and Rebecca were as candidates. They truly are rising stars in their field and we’re very proud of their achievement, and it’s a privilege to have them here at The Christie benefitting patients.”

Dr Rebecca Lee, who was also recently awarded the Wellcome Trust Early Years Fellowship, and is a senior lecturer in medical oncology at The University of Manchester, as well as a medical oncologist at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust 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."

Dr Sara Valpione said: “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. The fact that the Programme took place and 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.

Last updated: October 2022