Staff profile: Elizabeth Bancroft

Elizabeth Bancroft is a Oncogenetics Research Nurse Consultant at The Royal Marsden and works within the BRC’s Prostate Cancer Research theme. The BRC has supported Elizabeth and her colleagues in the Oncogenetics Team by helping with NIHR funding applications, funding various role within the team and by providing career and educational opportunities.

Pictured: Liz Bancroft

Tell me about your journey into research.

At university, I studied biology and developed an interest in genetics. Following my undergraduate degree, I completed a post-grad diploma in nursing. Within two years after qualifying as a nurse, I then went on to complete a MSc.

After that, I travelled for a year and then relocated to London. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in research so when a research nurse role within the Oncogenetics team at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden came up, it seemed perfect.

I first worked as a junior research nurse supporting academic research in the team’s units, and then I was encouraged to do a part-time PhD alongside my job role.

I have been working alongside Professor Rosalind Eeles, the Prostate Cancer Theme Lead at the BRC, for nineteen years now. I was also recently promoted from Lead Nurse Researcher for Oncogenetics to my current role.

What does a typical work week for you look like?

My role is quite varied. Two days a week, I see patients in our specialist, nurse-led prostate cancer genetic risk clinic for genetic counselling and genetic testing to investigate genetic changes that increase the risk of prostate cancer; or for a prostate cancer screening for men at higher risk of, or who carry a higher-risk genetic variant that predisposes them to, prostate cancer.

This part of my role is interesting as there are currently no national guidelines regarding the referral of people with prostate cancer and their families to a clinical genetics service. Our team is known for our specialist interest in this area, and we are developing this service alongside the Urology team at The Royal Marsden to provide a flagship prostate diagnostic service specifically for men in higher-risk groups as a commissioned NHS service.

I also lead a programme of research looking at the psychological aspects of integrating genetics into the prostate cancer screening pathway. So, the clinics I run provide an ideal opportunity to embed my own investigator-led research alongside clinical practice.

The rest of my week is spent managing referrals to the team, promoting referrals to our service to other genetics and urology services around the southeast, and managing a team or research nurses, research assistants, data managers and trial coordinators across The Royal Marsden and ICR.

I also supervise a MSc student, provide support to MD/PhD fellows in the team and coach on the Imperial College AHSC Starting Out in Research course.

What research are you proud to have contributed to?

I have worked on the IMPACT study since it began – helping to set it up, opening it in over 60 centres internationally, and overseeing the recruitment of over 4000 patients.

The study is currently in follow-up, but we have already published some results that have led to changes in practice.

The IMPACT Study aims to establish prostate cancer incidence and risk in men who carry mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2 or the Lynch Syndrome genes MSH2, MSH6 or MLHL1 and compare it with a control group of men who have tested negative for a known pathogenic mutation in their family. The study discovered that the PSA test is effective in picking up early stage clinically important prostate cancer in certain groups of men.

I am particularly proud of two publications: the first was a paper in European Urology which presented the first-year results of the BRCA1/2 carrier cohort, and this paper won the prize for the 'Best Fundamental Research Paper’ published in European Urology in 2014.

More recently we had a publication in the Lancet Oncology publishing the first-year results for the Mis-match repair cohort – which has clearly shown that men with MSH2 and MSH6 variants are at high-risk of nasty prostate cancers, and that PSA screening should be routinely offered.

I hope that practice guidelines will now be changed to implement this.