We are delighted to introduce you to the Wales Cancer Research Centre’s new Director, Dr Mererid Evans.
Dr Evans brings a wealth of experience to the role and is looking forward to working closely with the many talented researchers and innovators across Wales to lead and deliver cancer research excellence.
In the meantime, she’s taken the time to answer a few questions about her hopes for cancer research in Wales and the direction of the WCRC over the coming years.
What are your career highlights to date?
I am very proud to be a cancer doctor, and my career highlight has to be becoming a consultant oncologist at Velindre hospital in 2007, where I specialise in the management of patients with head and neck cancer.
Since then, I have set up research within the NHS in Wales aiming to develop kinder treatments for patients with head and neck cancer. One of my studies, PATHOS, is now open in three continents - Europe, America and Australia - and could change treatment protocols for patients across the world.
I have worked nationally as Deputy Chair of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) radiotherapy research group (CTRad), leading and coordinating radiotherapy research across the UK and have made important links across the UK in this role.
More locally, I have been Associate Medical Director for research at Velindre. I’ve been working with a brilliant team of research leads and patient and public representatives to develop the Trusts’ ambitions for cancer research from 2021 through to 2031.
These ambitions include setting up a new research hub in South East Wales, in partnership with our NHS and University colleagues. I am excited about this hub and believe it will offer Welsh patients more access to experimental and advanced therapies, along with better access to cutting edge scientific research carried out by our University partners.
What most excites you about stepping into the Director role at WCRC?
I am excited to work with cancer researchers in different institutions across Wales, as well as with policy makers and government representatives.
I am aware from talking to many researchers who are involved with the WCRC that it is very highly regarded by the cancer research community and has brought that community together since it was set up in 2015. I very much want to keep that sense of inclusivity and community, and I am both proud and excited to be representing the cancer research community as WCRC Director.
I think one of our greatest challenges will be to provide a clear focus for cancer research in Wales. My aim is to bring the research community, Government, third sector and the Welsh public together, united in a single vision for cancer research in Wales. By doing this I believe that we can attract new investment and talent into Wales and can ensure that cancer research in Wales thrives in the future.
What three key developments do you hope to see happen within cancer research in Wales over the next quinquennium?
I’d like to see increased investment, from both internal and external sources, into cancer research in Wales, which we as a community must focus in areas of research where Wales can excel and make a real impact on an international level.
I believe we need to build our future cancer research workforce, inspiring the research leaders of the future and developing academic and clinical career pathways to keep them in Wales.
We also need to bring NHS and academic organisations together to work more closely to translate scientific discoveries made in Wales into the clinic to benefit Welsh patients. The hub that I mentioned above will be one way of doing this.
How do you see WCRC fitting into the wider cancer landscape in Wales over the coming years?
I believe the WCRC can and should play a central role in coordinating Welsh Government investment into cancer research. It should also bring the research community together to make Wales a country which has a reputation for excellence in cancer research.
The Wales Cancer Research Strategy (CReSt) will be published in the next few months. The WCRC should have a central role in bringing the community together to help deliver CReSt for the benefit of cancer patients in Wales and beyond.