To celebrate International Clinical Trials Day 2017 we’re speaking to the unsung heroes of clinical trials who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make them happen.

In this post, Susie Brown, one of the clinical trial coordinators in Birmingham involved in running and managing the National Lung Matrix Trial, shares what her job involves.

Getting things up and running

I always think part of the reason I got this job is because I was in the right place at the right time. I had finished my degree in Pharmaceutical Studies in 2014 when I immediately started working as a temporary Data Manager in the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit in Birmingham.

Then I became the Matrix Trial Administrator, after which I applied for and got the job of Trial Coordinator on the same trial. It’s a fascinating role and 2 years on I’m still loving it!

There are a lot of different things involved in being an academic clinical trials coordinator, but broadly speaking it’s my job to make sure the clinical trial runs properly and smoothly.

This means making sure a trial follows the regulatory requirements and what’s called ‘Good Clinical Practice‘.

Some aspects of my job can be difficult – like juggling a to-do list and responding to hundreds of emails, while at the same time having to drop everything if there’s a problem. But I honestly love it.

Susie Brown, Trial Coordinator on the National Lung Matrix Trial

Trial Coordinators aren’t involved in designing clinical trials, but we are involved in developing the trial protocol. This is the rulebook that tells doctors, nurses and anyone else involved in a trial how it should be run – how patients should be cared for, what treatments they should be given and how often.

Once written, the protocol is sent to different regulatory bodies to make sure it meets the standards required for clinical trials.

This also includes sending it to a research and ethics committee. They review the protocol at the start of the trial and during it to make sure we’re treating the patients well and that the trial’s carried out in an ethical way. Patients sit on this committee and give their valuable input and opinion on the protocol. I think this is really important because at the end of the day, we’re running these clinical trials for the benefit of them and patients in the future.

One trial, many places

Another big part of my job is getting hospitals involved in a clinical trial. I send them all the documents and information they need. Before any new hospital can get involved in a trial they have to make sure they have the capacity to do so.

It’s an incredibly rewarding job and I feel lucky to be doing it.

– Susie Brown

For the Matrix Trial, there’s lots of things that need to happen so it can run properly and successfully. Patients need to have biopsies, CT scans, chemotherapy etc. In order for this to happen, a hospital needs to have the staff and other necessary resources in place.

The Matrix Trial is open at 17 different hospitals, and this might increase in the future. As part of my job, I’ve provided training to trial staff at these sites – from pharmacists to administrators – so they know what’s involved.

Loving your work

I don’t think clinical trials could happen if there was no such thing as a Trial Coordinator. Our job is to work with the wider Trial Management team to help make things happen from start to finish. And we help make sure all the legal and ethical requirements of every trial are met too.

I love the fact that my job involves project management and administration within the context of science and medicine. It means I’m learning new skills every day, but still get to work in the area I studied.

But most of all I love that I’m involved in something that could get new, better treatments to patients and the clinic quickly and safely.

It’s an incredibly rewarding job and I feel lucky to be doing it.

Interview conducted by Áine McCarthy