Gran takes part in cancer trials to help other people

Leanne McCourt, a clinical research nurse at the Mandeville Unit at Craigavon Area Hospital. INPT14-203.
Leanne McCourt, a clinical research nurse at the Mandeville Unit at Craigavon Area Hospital. INPT14-203.

Helping other people with cancer was the motivation behind a grandmother of two opting to take part in clinical trials for the disease.

And as Leanne McCourt, the only research nurse at Craigavon Area Hospital, points out, this desire is common to most patients she sees.

Geraldine (63), as she wishes simply to be known, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in January 2013 and began chemotherapy the following month.

However, before she began her treatment, she was asked by Leanne if she wanted to be part of one of the trials into a number of types of cancer which have been taking place at Craigavon’s Mandeville Unit.

Leanne’s chemotherapy differed from the conventional type in that the sessions were halved from 24 to 12, and were followed by extra scans and check-ups. The aim of the trial was to see if the extra sessions, which can be quite harsh for bowel cancer, were necessary.

Said Geraldine, “Leanne was so nice and she explained everything. I was glad I only had 12 as I was very sick with the chemo.” Since then, Geraldine “hasn’t looked back”, with her last scan in January being completely normal.

In the past, if patients wanted to participate in a clinical trial they would have had to travel to Belfast. However, a new team of nurses was established in 2009 to improve access to cancer clinical trials across Northern Ireland - with Leanne’s post funded by Cancer Research UK and the Public Health Agency.

She said, “I find that you really do develop a special relationship with patients who are on drug studies as they require close monitoring and you see them on a regular basis... the fact they can be a part of a drugs trial without having to travel a great distance really does help and make a difference.”

A Cancer Research spokesperson said, “Taking part in a clinical trial means patients may be able to receive a new treatment not available outside the trial. Without clinical trials, we wouldn’t know which drugs work best to prevent and treat cancer.”