BRC people

Meet the team.

Professor David Cunningham – Director of Clinical Research

Professor David Cunningham is Director of Clinical Research and Development at The Royal Marsden and Director of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research. He is a Consultant Medical Oncologist and Head of the Gastro-intestinal/Lymphoma Unit.

Professor Cunningham’s main research interests are clinical trials in gastrointestinal cancer and lymphoma, along with the development of translational research and novel molecular therapies.

In 2013 he was the Chief Investigator and first/senior author on three studies published in high impact journals and published more than 45 publications in the same year. He also delivered 15 lectures at national and international conferences including two at the Houses of Parliament.

He was elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences in June 2011. He is Chair of the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board Specialist Advisory Committee in Medical Oncology and Chair of the Specialty Training Committee in Medical Oncology.

He is also the Chair of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Oesophago-Gastric Clinical Studies sub-group and committee member of the NCRI Upper GI Clinical Studies Group. He is also a member of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Gastrointestinal Cancer Steering Committee and a member of NCI's Rectal-Anal Cancer Task Force 2010.

Professor Cunningham is on the Editorial Board of Annals of Oncology, British Journal of Cancer and Current Colorectal Cancer Reports. He is Deputy Editor of Clinical Colorectal Cancer.

Monica Ritco Vonsovici – BRC Manager

Monica Ritco Vonsovici is the Manager of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research, joining the Trust in September 2015. She trained initially as a protein biochemist at the University of Paris XI, Orsay, France, where she completed a PhD in Enzymology, Physical-Chemistry and Protein Engineering. Postdoctoral training followed at The Institute of Cancer Research, London and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL, where her research interests focussed on molecular recognition process of important targets for cancer drug design. While at UCL, she received training in technology transfer and she acted as a facilitator for industry-related activities within London Centre for Nanotechnology, helping identifying and promoting business opportunities and participating in the shaping of a departmental strategy on industrial interactions.

In 2010 she joined the Health Innovation Challenge Fund, a translational funding partnership between the Department of Health and the Wellcome Trust, where she was a senior member of the team responsible for the set-up and management of the scheme.

Her role provides strategic management and implementation of the clinical, academic and business objectives of the Biomedical Research Centre.

Duncan Walsh – BRC Officer (grants)

Duncan Walsh has a Postgraduate Certificate in Education Science from the University of Bath, Qualified Teacher Status and spent two years as a science teacher in secondary schools. He also graduated from Bournemouth University with a Bachelor of Science in Archaeology and specialised in Physics at Bath Spa University. He has spent the last few years as a Research Administrator at Pharmacy Research UK and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

The role of the BRC Officer (grants) provides grant support and oversight to researchers at The Royal Marsden. The role helps to identify suitable funding opportunities for researchers in different areas of cancer research. This is followed by a review of the funder’s Terms and Conditions and eligibility criteria to make sure of the opportunity’s relevance, before supporting the researcher during the application process.

He maintains a database of local, national and international funding opportunities which is used to keep track of the numerous grants and awards schemes which may be of interest to the various clinical units that fall within the BRC’s remit. This same database can be used to help individual researchers who are encouraged to contact the BRC if they are looking to fund a particular project.

Leanne Black / Marta Mulyak – BRC Officer (performance)

Leanne Black studied Biomaterial Science and Tissue Engineering at the University of Sheffield and joined the Trust in October 2014 as maternity cover for Marta Mulyak.

The role of the BRC Officer (performance) provides an essential oversight of how studies are performing against a key set of indicators. These metrics allow us, the BRC Team, to ensure the money we’re entrusted with is used in the most responsible and most efficient way possible to achieve our strategic objectives.

Whilst it’s vitally important that research is undertaken within an agreed budget, it is also essential that studies meet performance milestones. The performance of the study, i.e. patient recruitment and other key performance indicators, is also monitored so that we deliver research that will enhance the patient experience.

As well as overseeing the existing portfolio, Leanne coordinates the bi-monthly BRC Steering Committee meetings which are held to review and consider applications for BRC funding.

Sally Ellis – Clinical Trials Unit Operations Manager

Sally Ellis is the Operations Manager for The Royal Marsden’s Clinical Trial Unit. Her role is to set-up and develop The Royal Marsden CTU in order to provide support, guidance on clinical trials conduct and ensure the smooth running so that high-quality research projects can be undertaken at The Royal Marsden. The Royal Marsden CTU was set up in July 2014 and currently has a number of Phase I and II studies in various tumour types either ongoing or in the process of being set up.

Sally has a wealth of experience within the clinical trials field, and has spent several years working for pharmaceutical companies and a non-profit organisation running UK and International clinical trials. Prior to this she studied Immunology at King’s College, London, and is currently studying part time for a Masters in Global Health Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The Royal Marsden CTU receives significant investment from the BRC and the trials it runs are closely aligned with the BRC’s strategy of growing trials to attract external funding and support its portfolio of research.

Janine Salter – BRC Biobank Manager

Janine Salter has been the Trust’s Tissue Manager for two years and has 30 years of laboratory experience of histological, immunohistochemical, and molecular techniques.

She runs The Royal Marsden Biobank and is the operational lead for the Cancer Research UK Stratified Medicine Programme (Phases I and II) and Genomics England Ltd’s GEL pilot programmes for The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research.

Janine has also published extensively in translational research journals (51 over 15 years) and can often be found at domestic and international meetings presenting scientific data.

The Biobank, housed in the Centre for Molecular Pathology, is The Royal Marsden’s tissue sample collection and when at full capacity will store around 800,000 tissue samples and will be an invaluable resource to researchers at The Royal Marsden/ICR BRC and beyond.

Further information on the work Janine and her team do with the biobank can be found here.

Sahar Rehman – BRC IT Project Manager

Sahar Rehman joined The Royal Marsden in February 2014 and has several years experience in information/project management in both publicly and privately run organisations. Prior to this she studied Biochemistry and Microbiology at Queen Mary, University of London before a Masters in Structural Biology.

Since joining the Trust she has been project managing the delivery of several bespoke IT systems that support research projects undertaken within the BRC. These include a clinical trials database management system (MACRO) that will lead to improved trial management of interventional trials by allowing members of the research team to enter trial information and monitor patient data electronically. She is also involved in the roll-out of a tissue sample management system (STiMS) which will allow the Biobank to track tissue samples throughout their lifecycle and improve the way the sample collection is managed. She is currently working on the implementation of High Performance Computing for the molecular diagnostics department and a new tracking system to track samples for the Genomics England programme.

Dr Naureen Starling – Consultant Medical Oncologist, Associate Director of Clinical Research and BRC Training Lead

Dr Naureen Starling is a Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden/Institute of Cancer Research NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) specialising in the treatment of patients with upper and lower gastrointestinal cancers.

Dr Starling was appointed as a Consultant Medical Oncologist and Associate Director of Clinical Research at The Royal Marsden in 2012 and is also the National Institute for Health (NIHR) Training Lead for the RM/ICR BRC. She is actively involved in grant writing, clinical trials and translational research in gastrointestinal cancers, particularly focused on earlier phase clinical trials, novel therapeutics and the delivery of stratified medicine to patients with gastrointestinal cancers.


Caroline Shriver – BRC Training and Education Manager in Clinical Research

The BRC Training and Education Manager in Clinical Research is a dedicated post ensuring that clinical research staff working across both The Royal Marsden and ICR are well trained, supported professionally and have access to advice and development that are essential for the effective delivery of clinical research.

The role not only has a focus for training clinical and non-clinical generic research staff, but also links to national directives by the NIHR and Health Education England as well as local existing training and education services. This ensures that there is a collaborative approach to support workforce development of all clinical research staff in addition to raising awareness which would enable research to become embedded into clinical services.

Dr Naureen Starling said: “The Biomedical Research Centre is committed to training and development and has a strategy for training Clinical Fellows and Allied Health Professionals (AHPs). The Royal Marsden School is able to support this strategy through relevant educational programmes for AHPs and the BRC as a specialist cancer centre is in a unique position to be able to lead the development of an oncology-based workforce.”

Min Cheung – BRC Patient and Public Involvement/Engagement Manager (PPI/E)

The BRC puts a large emphasis on Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement in research and recently appointed a BRC PPI/E manager to implement and drive this strategy across the BRC using innovative and engaging methods.

Together with The Royal Marsden’s PPI Lead, the BRC PPI/E Manager acts as our in-house PPI/E experts and has an excellent understanding of PPI/E requirements in NHS-based research. More importantly, they develop areas of good practice and help to pass these on to researchers on a local and national level to maximise the impact of PPI/E.

Patients and the public can be involved in all stages of the research lifecycle, from identifying the area of research to be undertaken to contributing to the design of the study itself. Once the trial is up and running PPI/E groups often have a role to play by acting as champions for clinical trial recruitment and providing updates to fellow participants.


John Amos was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2010 and had an operation to remove the affected bowel followed by six months of chemotherapy at Sutton. He joined the Bowel Cancer Support Group at the South East Cancer Help Centre (SECHC) and found the mutual support invaluable. As leader of the group, John now supports other patients with bowel cancer, as well as ensuring that their voices are heard at The Royal Marsden when trial protocols are being designed and implemented. The Royal Marsden’s research fellows and consultants also speak at the group’s monthly meetings and answer patients’ questions. The SECHC is an important resource for cancer patients and has supported hundreds over the years. The centre has a stand at Sutton one day a month and every second month at Chelsea to provide information and support to patients.

The Bowel Cancer Support Group meets at 7-9pm on the first Wednesday of every month at the SECHC. For more information, call 020 8668 0974, email [email protected] or visit

For more information about the South East Cancer Help Centre, visit or call 020 8668 0974.