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Increasing representation of under-served groups in randomised oncology trials

   Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit

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  Prof E Hall, Prof J Bliss  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Appropriate representation of potentially underserved populations is required in clinical trials if we are to ensure that the opportunity for early access to novel treatment options is equitable and results are generalisable to all people affected with the condition. This is particularly critical in oncology, where treatments can be prolonged, follow-up can be lengthy and the impact of both may have different cultural or economic implications for different groups. The PRioRITy study1 identified “what are the best approaches to ensure inclusion and participation of under-represented or vulnerable groups in randomised trials?” and “how can eligibility criteria for trial participants be optimised so that they aid recruitment to randomised trials?” as research priorities. The ICR-CTSU has an established portfolio of randomised controlled phase II and III cancer trials, both of investigational medicinal products and of interventions such as radiotherapy. Several thousand patients are typically enrolled in ICR-CTSU managed trials at over 100 cancer centres and regional hospitals across the UK and internationally each year.

What the studentship will encompass:

ICR-CTSU is reviewing its trial portfolio with respect to inclusion/exclusion criteria and The INCLUDE2 Ethnicity Framework. The studentship will build on this pilot work with a focus on randomised trials of cancer treatments and extension into “hidden” demographics data. The aims are to innovate in the collection of broader equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) characteristics and define methodology for testing interventions to increase representation of under-served groups. Depending on the qualifications of the candidate, the scope and objectives of the PhD will be tailored accordingly and will include the following:

1.   Systematic review of inclusion/exclusion criteria of phase II and III randomised controlled cancer clinical trial protocols informed by ongoing pilot work at ICR-CTSU.

2.   Analysis of existing ICR-CTSU trial datasets and interrogation of routinely collected national datasets to establish which underserved groups can be identified robustly.

3.   Design, conduct and lead a study run at NHS sites to ask those approached about ICR-CTSU trial participation to anonymously provide ‘hidden’ data not routinely collected for trial analysis (eg education level, income, gender and sexual orientation), to identify imbalances in comparison to information available in routinely collected national datasets.

4.   Develop recommendations for interventions based on results of 1-3 above, contemporary literature and in collaboration with patient and public representatives, try and address any identified imbalances; develop and/or test such an intervention.

Fieldwork will be developed depending on the outcome of 1-3 above and might include use of qualitative research methods e.g. focus groups with patient and public representatives. Patient involvement and public engagement will be integral to this project to help identify barriers to participation in oncology trials and to develop and oversee the implementation of interventions designed to address identified imbalances.

Candidates should hold a first or upper second class honours degree (BSc or equivalent) in a STEM subject. 


Please complete the form fully. Incomplete forms will not be considered. CVs will not be accepted for this scheme.

Please apply giving details for your first choice project. You can provide details of up to two other TMRP DTP projects you may be interested in at section B of the application form.

Before making an application, applicants should contact the project primary supervisor to find out more about the project and to discuss their interests in the research.

The deadline for applications is 4pm (GMT) 18 February 2022. Late applications will not be considered.

Completed application forms must be returned to: [Email Address Removed]

Informal enquiries may be made to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Studentships are funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 3 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and stipend (stipend to include London Weighting where appropriate). We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


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