Laura Butler

Oncology Research Nurse

In her spare time, kickboxer Laura Butler can be found sparring in the ring – but during the day she faces a different kind of fight, for the 33-year-old is a research nurse, trying to help find a cure for breast cancer.

Working for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Laura has already helped the organisation to recruit more than 200 patients for trials and studies which aim to treat and eventually eradicate the disease. She is part of a nurse-led team working for Research and Development unit at the Trust for the past four and a half years. She explained: “My work involves running trials that aim to treat breast cancer and I also support patients when they receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.

“My main responsibility is to identify patients who are suitable for the studies that we are running at the Trust and provide them with information about the trials that we are carrying out. I have also set up certain studies, and monitored them, to ensure they run smoothly. But I think what I really enjoy about my job is I get to interact with patients and develop a close relationship with them.

“It’s a very rewarding job. Research offers a lot of opportunities and although what we do is a small part of the whole jigsaw, you do feel like you make a difference to the patient’s care. For example, we are doing a study called FURVA (Fulvestrant +/-vandetanib) where we give breast cancer patients specially designed medicine to control the spread of cancer. Patients have shown real progress so far. To be able to see the outcome really makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

Laura, who lives in Birmingham with her partner, said: “There are very many talented people working within the Research and Development team, who have inspired me. I have learned so much from them and the work they do is really outstanding – and it’s also a very friendly place to work.”

One of Laura’s career highlights is when she and her team successfully delivered a physiotherapy trial, namely PROSPER(Prevention Of Shoulder Problems). It looked at improving the arm movements of patients who had undergone a breast cancer surgery. She said: “I was thrilled to read the patient feedback about this study, which said the therapy really made a difference to their daily lives and boosted their confidence. I felt even more motivated to continue doing my job well.”

Since joining the Trust, Laura has been part of around 20 trials. She added: “I’m quite lucky in a way that the patients we have met are very open to the idea of joining these trials and we really appreciate their input.”

So who does Laura cite as her NHS hero? “It would have to be the team in the Haematology and Transplant Unit at the Christie Hospital, where I carried out two placements as a student nurse. They were a really caring, supportive and knowledgeable team who helped me develop an interest in haematology and cancer care.”

When she’s not trying to save lives, Laura said she enjoys kickboxing in her spare time. “I think it’s a very good hobby which makes me feel re-energised. I absolutely love it and have been enjoying this sport for two and a half years now.”