Interview: Cancer Research UK, Digital Technology Leaders Awards finalist

clock • 4 min read
Fay Oetegenn, Head of Product Portfolio – Science, Cancer Information and Corporate Systems, Cancer Research UK
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Fay Oetegenn, Head of Product Portfolio – Science, Cancer Information and Corporate Systems, Cancer Research UK

'We are the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research, influence and information'

The advent of digital technology has propelled growth, widened horizons, and enhanced the provision of services across significant parts of the globe.

From website design to coding, user experience and project management, the Digital Technology Leaders Awards cover all aspects of the digital technology stack. This comprehensive recognition ensures that groundbreaking contributions across various disciplines are acknowledged and applauded.

This year, we will announce the winners at a live ceremony on Thursday 6th July in Central London.

Cancer Research UK, one of the finalists, is in the running for the Best Not-for-Profit Digital Project.

We caught up with Fay Oetegenn, Head of Product Portfolio - Science, Cancer Information and Corporate Systems at Cancer Research UK, to find out what makes her organisation different from others.

Fay Oetegenn is the leader of the largest scientific technology team in the UK charity sector with extensive experience of creating empowered, matrix-managed teams to deliver key organisational strategies. She has led a range of scientific and patient-facing technology changes over the last decade. Fay Oetegenn is passionate about creating early-opportunities to enable greater diversity in Technology and is a champion of women in STEM.

Computing: Please provide some background on your company for our readers. What makes you different from other companies?

Fay Oetegenn: We are the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research, influence, and information. We support research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses. Our research into cancer aims to enable people to live longer, healthier lives, free from the fear of cancer. As a technology department we buy and build systems that enable our marketing and fundraising teams to raise funds; our scientists to undertake research; our grants team to distribute funds; our information teams to provide factual information about cancer and to lobby for policy changes, and our Corporate teams to ensure the organisation can operate effectively.

What one company achievement in the last 12 months are you most proud of?

I am in an incredible position where there are too many inspiring breakthroughs to choose from. If I look at the work of the technology department, the initiative we have been shortlisted for is the achievement I am most proud of - there is a significant challenge in the UK in being able to recruit patients into clinical trials, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. These trials can often be the last treatment option available to patients with late-stage cancers and can provide hope and breakthroughs in treatment.

Prior to 2018 clinicians who had a patient eligible for a trial had to use a spreadsheet to look for the latest information on available clinical trials at our trial sites. This was an unwieldy process which meant that few consultants were able to find the time to look at eligible trials. The team has built a tool that enables clinicians to quickly search for trials using a range of search options. Since this was implemented/introduced, we have seen:

  • A 55% increase in speed, ease and feasibility of trial matching
  • That 77% of users say they now have greater knowledge of trials
  • That 71% of users have made or received patient referral

This innovative tool is having a direct impact on the potential treatment options for patients across the UK and will contribute to greater numbers of patients enrolling on trials. Ultimately this could lead to further breakthroughs in cancer drugs and therapies.

What are you working on this year?

We have a huge range of work underway - this includes overhauling our Marketing Technologies to create personalised supporter journeys; modernising our back office processes; re-platforming a range of our scientific technologies to enable our scientists to work with increasingly complex datasets; overhauling our web presence to provide an improved user experience for those searching for cancer information, and increasing our focus on cloud technologies. It is another exciting year for us as a technology department.

Why are events like the Digital Technology Leaders Awards important to the IT industry?

They are brilliant for highlighting areas of innovation and sharing learnings across different sectors. As a charity focused on cancer research, we are really interested in what we can learn from other organisations who have undertaken large-scale data transformations and re-platformed legacy architecture at scale.

It is also brilliant recognition for teams to see their successes being publicly celebrated.

Digital Technology Leaders Awards will take place on 6 July in London. Click here to view the shortlist and here to book your table.

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