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Dame Lesley Fallowfield, DBE, BSc, DPhil, MedSci

Professor of Psycho-oncology
Director of the Sussex Health Outcomes Research & Education in Cancer (SHORE-C)
Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex
Brighton, United Kingdom

Current Research

  • Seeking to improve doctor-patient communication to reduce patient anxiety relating to treatment decisions.

  • An education tool is developed to improve physician communications with patients around test results and treatment options.

  • This study focuses on an important component of patient care and if the tool is successful, it could be shared with medical institutions anywhere in the world.

Gene expression profiling tests such as Oncotype DX® and Endopredict® are used to predict if a woman requires chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy treatment. Test results are not always a straight “Yes” or “No,” making decision-making about the benefit of further treatment difficult. This period of uncertainty can be another source of stress for patients.

In order to help both patients and clinicians at this interface, Dame Lesley Fallowfield and her team developed an educational program that utilizes filmed scenarios of doctors talking to a patient about her tumor and her relative risk based on test results. In subsequent workshops to assess the effectiveness of the intervention, participating doctors will have the opportunity to consider the communication challenges with the different types of patients.

In the coming year, Dame Fallowfield's goal is to determine how the intervention impacted doctors' communication about risk. To evaluate efficacy, her team will audiotape clinicians discussing genomic test results with a simulated patient (actor) before and after the workshops. Their communication skills will be assessed subjectively (clinician self-assessment) and objectively by the actor patient and two independent researchers.

The goal is produce positive changes in healthcare professionals’ communication skills, and to make the education materials freely available to facilitators and educational organizations throughout the world. 


Dame Lesley Fallowfield is Professor of Psycho-oncology at Brighton & Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex where she is Director of the Sussex Health Outcomes Research & Education in Cancer (SHORE-C) group.  Dame Lesley originally trained as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital, London but then did a BSc in Experimental Psychology at Sussex. Research for her doctorate examining the perceptual correlates of optic nerve damage in demyelinating diseases was completed at the Universities of Sussex and Cambridge. The death of a close friend from cancer in 1984 led to a career change; she joined a breast cancer surgeon, Professor Michael Baum in the King’s College Hospital, London, Clinical Trials Unit measuring the psychosocial sequelae of breast cancer. In 1991 she became the full-time Director of a Psychosocial Oncology Group and was awarded the first European Chair in Psycho-oncology from University College, London in 1997. Dame Lesley’s research interests are eclectic and include the measurement of quality of life in clinical trials of cancer therapy, the evaluation of interventions aimed at ameliorating the side-effects of treatments the training of communication skills for health care professionals in cancer and information materials for patients contemplating trial enrolment. She has developed many validated patient reported outcome measures that are used in many international breast cancer clinical trials, published over 400 papers, many book chapters and 3 text books. She lectures and runs training workshops throughout the world in psychosocial oncology, quality of life assessment and communication skills. In 2008 she was made a Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences. In 2016 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to psycho-oncology.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Estée Lauder Companies Brands Award in Memory of Evelyn H. Lauder

Area(s) of Focus