In September Choon Key Chekar attended VOICE 2016, a 5 day residential course at Warwick Clinical Trials Unit which aims to give participants training in basic cancer biology and skills for critical evaluation of research proposals and scientific papers. The event was organised by Independent Cancer Patients’ Voice (ICPV), an organisation of breast cancer patients interested in cancer research. ICPV is a unique patient group which is passionate about improving clinical research ‘by patients being partners with clinicians and healthcare professionals, rather than passive recipients of healthcare’.
Nine enthusiastic students attended this year’s jam-packed course – most of them were affected by various cancers, as patients themselves or as family members of cancer patients. The course consisted of lectures on cancer biology in the morning and then practical sessions in the afternoon. Choon Key attended this course as a student, to learn about cancer biology and cancer research. She learned about how tumour cells function and acquire the ‘tools’ they need, and she got to visit laboratories and do actual lab work.
She also attended as a researcher, so that she could find out more about what kind of information patients and activists value and how science is communicated to them. Choon Key said, ‘this course was a fascinating example of “patient research advocacy” in action and it was very interesting to observe interactions between professionals and patients. A number of clinicians and scientists generously gave up their time over the 5 days, but it was clear that they were enjoying students’ genuine interests and questions’.
ICPV has organised this course once a year since 2013 and welcomes participation from interested members of the public.