Dr Sarah Bowden BSc (Hons) PhD

Dr Sarah Bowden

Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences
CRCTU Director of Operations, Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit

Contact details

Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit
Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Sarah Bowden is the Director of Operations at the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) at the University of Birmingham.

She has a specific interest in late phase cancer clinical trials research and acts as the Unit’s pharmacovigilance lead.


  • PhD Clinical Chemistry, 1994
  • BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences, 1990


Sarah Bowden is the Director of Operations at the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) at the University of Birmingham.

She graduated with a Biological Sciences degree from Leicester University in 1990. She obtained her PhD from the University of Birmingham in 1994 while working as a Research Associate at the Wolfson Laboratories, Queen Elizabeth Hospital. In 1994 she moved to the Department of Anatomy, University of Birmingham where she worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow studying cell cycle division. In February 1998 she joined the CRCTU as a Trial Coordinator coordinating a national, multicentre, phase III, trial called SECRAB which was designed to determine the optimal sequence of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in patients with early breast cancer. Subsequently she has coordinated a number of investigational medicinal product, multicentre, phase III, breast cancer trials. In 2003 she was promoted to Senior Trial Coordinator managing a portfolio of breast cancer trials and the staff working on those projects.

In April 2009 she was promoted to Assistant Director of Operational Issues.

In October 2013 she was appointed as Director of Operations being responsible for the management of more than 180 members of staff as well as playing a key role in the strategic development of the unit. In addition, she continues to play an active role in the development and management of the unit’s late phase cancer research portfolio and has more recently been involved in the development and delivery of a number of COVID-19 clinical trials.


Cancer clinical trials

Sarah Bowden has contributed to the design, set-up and/or management of the following trials:

  • ABC - Adjuvant Breast Cancer trial
  • aTTom - adjuvant Tamoxifen Treatment Offer more?
  • CATALYST – A randomised phase II proof of principle multi-arm multi-stage trial designed to guide the selection of interventions for phase III trials in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 infection.
  • CompARE - Phase III randomised controlled trial Comparing Alternative Regimens for escalating treatment of intermediate and high-risk oropharyngeal cancer
  • LORIS - The Low Risk DCIS trial
  • NEAT - National Epirubicin Adjuvant Trial
  • NEAT-A - National Epirubicin Adjuvant Trial – Accelerated
  • OCTAVE – Observational patient Cohorts-T-cells Antibodies and Vaccine Efficacy in SARS-CoV-2
  • OCTAVE-DUO – A phase III, multicentre, randomised trial comparing SARS-CoV2 re-boost vaccine strategies in immunocompromised patients
  • Rational-MCC - Rational treatment selection for Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC)
  • ROSCO - Response to Optimal Selection of neo-adjuvant Chemotherapy in Operable breast cancer:
  • SECRAB - Sequencing of Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy in Adjuvant Breast cancer
  • SPOT - Squamous cell carcinoma Prevention in Organ transplant recipients using Topical treatments: a feasibility study
  • STAR-TREC - Can we Save the rectum by watchful waiting or TransAnal surgery following (chemo)Radiotherapy versus Total mesorectal excision for early REctal Cancer
  • TACT2 - Trial of Accelerated Chemotherapy
  • UKMCC-01 - A Phase II Study of Pazopanib in Metastatic Merkel Cell Carcinoma

She has also contributed to a number of methodological projects over the years, the most recent involving costings of Complex Innovative Design (CID) trials.

Other activities

Sarah Bowden has oversight of more than 120 academic clinical trials within the CRCTU. She plays a key role in the strategic development of the Unit and acts as the Unit's pharmacovigilance lead.

She is a member of several clinical trials committees and working groups locally, nationally and internationally including the University of Birmingham Clinical Trials Oversight Committee, the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit's (CTU) Directors Committee, the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) CTU’s Operational Leads Committee, and the European Medicines Agency Clinical Trials Information System (CTIS) Stakeholder Group.

In her role as pharmacovigilance lead, Sarah teaches and trains on this topic. She is also actively involved in the training of the next generation of clinical trials researchers, lecturing on the University’s MSc in Clinical Trials and training the Unit’s Clinical Trials Research Fellows. 


  • Wason J, Dimairo M; Biggs K, Bowden S, Brown J, Flight L, Hall J, Jaki T, Lowe R, Pallmann P, Pilling M, Snowdon C, Sydes M, Villar S, Weir C, Wilson N, Yap C, Hancock H, Maier R, Practical guidance for planning resources required to support publicly-funded adaptive clinical trials, BMC Medicine, In press
  • Hasan ZU, Ahmed I, Matin RN, Homer VH, Lear JT, Ismail F, Whitmarsh T, Green AC, Thomson J, Milligan A, Hogan S, Van-de-Velde V, Mitchell-Worsford L, Kentley J, Bowden S, Gaunt P, Wheatley K, Proby CM, Harwood CA (2022) Topical treatment of actinic keratoses in organ transplant recipients: a feasibility study for SPOT (Squamous cell carcinoma Prevention in Organ transplant recipients using Topical treatments) British Journal of Dermatology. In press
  • Wilson N, Biggs K, Bowden S, Brown J, Dimairo M, Flight L, Hall J, Hockaday A, Jaki T, Lowe R, Murphy C, Pallmann P, Pilling MA, Snowdon C, Sydes MR, Villar SS, Weir CJ, Welburn J, Yap C, Maier R, Hancock H, Wason JMS. Costs and staffing resource requirements for adaptive clinical trials: Quantitative and qualitative results from the Costing Adaptive Trials project. BMC Medicine. 2021;19(1):251
  • Kearns P., Siebert S., Willicombe M., Gaskell C., Kirkham A., Pirrie S., Bowden S., Magwaro S., Hughes A., Lim Z., Dimitriadis S., Murray S.M., Marjot T., Win Z. , Irwin S.L., Meacham G., PITCH Study Group, OCTAVE Study Group, Ritcher A.G., Kelleher P., Satsangi J., Miller P., Rea D., Cook G., Turtle L., Klenerman P.K, Dunachie S.J., Basu N., Silva T.I., Thomas D.T., Barnes E.B., Goodyear C.S., McInnes I. Examining the immunological effects of COVID-19 vaccination in patients with conditions potentially leading to diminished immune response capacity – the OCTAVE Trial (2021) Lancet Pre-print
  • Ewies A.A.A, Ahmed I., Al-Azzawi F., Pitkin J., Gupta P., Persic M., Sahu B., El-Ghobashy A., Barraclough L., Woodman J, Babrah J., Bowden S., Stocken D, Billingham L, Sundar S., Rea D. Folic Acid Supplementation in Postmenopausal Women with Hot Flushes: Phase III Randomised Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. In Press
  • Veenith T.,  Fisher B.A.,  Slade D.,  Rowe A.,  Sharpe R.,  Thickett D.R.,   Whitehouse T.,  Rowland M.,  Scriven J.,  Parekh D.,  Bowden S.J.,  Savage J.S.,  Richards D.,  Bion J.,  Kearns P.,  Gates S. (2021) CATALYST trial protocol: A multicentre, open-label, phase II, multi-arm trial for an early and accelerated evaluation of the potential treatments for COVID-19 in hospitalised adults. BMJ. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.10.21251478
  • Fernando IN, Bowden SJ, Herring K, Brookes CL, Ahmed I, Marshall A, Grieve R, Churn M, Spooner D, Latief TN, Agrawal RK, Brunt AM, Stevens A, Goodman A, Canney P, Bishop J, Ritchie D, Dunn J, Poole CJ, Rea DW, on behalf of the SECRAB Investigators (2019) Synchronous versus sequential chemo-radiotherapy in patients with early stage breast cancer (SECRAB): A randomised, phase III, trial. Radiotherapy and Oncology Radiotherapy and Oncology 142: 52-61
  • Meade S, Gaunt P, Hartley A, Robinson M, Harrop V, Cashmore J, Wagstaff L, Babrah J, Bowden SJ, Mehanna H, Sanghera P (2018) Feasibility of Dose-escalated Hypofractionated Chemoradiation in Human Papilloma Virus-negative or Smoking-associated Oropharyngeal Cancer. Clinical Oncology (2018) 30(6):366-374
  • Earl, H.M., Hiller, L.,Howard, H.C., Dunn, J.A., Young, J., Bowden, S.J., McDermaid, M., Waterhouse, A., Wilson, G., Agrawal, R., O’Reilly, S., Bowman, A., Ritchie, D., Goodman, A., Hickish, T., McAdam, K., Cameron. D., Dodwell, D., Rea, D., Caldas, C., Provenzano, E., Abraham, J., Canney, P., Crown, J., Kennedy, J., Coleman, R., Leonard, R.C., Carmichael, J., Wardley, A.M., Poole, C.J. on behalf of the tAnGo trial Collaborators (2017) Gemcitabine added to paclitaxel-containing, epirubicin / cyclophosphamide-based, adjuvant chemotherapy for women with early stage breast cancer (tAnGo): an open-label, randomised, phase 3 trial. Lancet Oncolgy 18 (6): 755-769
  • Dorling L, Kar S, Michailidou K, Hiller L, Vallier A, Ingle S, Hardy R, Bowden SJ, Dunn JA, Twelves C, Poole CJ, Caldas C, Earl HM, Pharoah PDP, Abraham JE The Relationship between Common Genetic Markers of Breast Cancer Risk and Chemotherapy-Induced Toxicity: A Case-Control Study (2016) PLoS One. 2016 Jul 8;11(7):e0158984. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0158984. eCollection 2016
  • Scott R.A, Freitag D.F.,  Li L.,  Chu A.Y., Surendran P., Young R., Grarup  N., Stancáková A., Chen Y., Varga T.V., Yaghootkar H., Luan J., Zhao J., Willems S.M.,  Wessel J.,  Wang S., Maruthur N.,  Michailidou K., Pirie A., van der Lee S.J., Gillson C., Olama A.A., Amouyel P., Arriola L.,  Arveiler D.,  Aviles-Olmos I., Balkau B.,  Barricarte A., Barroso I.,  Garcia S.B., Bis J.C., Blankenberg S., Boehnke M., Boeing H., Boerwinkle E.,  Borecki I.B., Bork-Jensen J., Bowden S., et al.,  A genomic approach to therapeutic target validation identifies a glucose-lowering GLP1R variant protective for coronary heart disease (2016) Sci Transl Med. 2016 Jun 1;8(341):341ra76. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aad3744
  • Ali HR, Dariush A, Provenzano E, Bardwell H, Abraham JE, Iddawela M, Vallier AL, Hiller L, Dunn JA, Bowden SJ, Hickish T, McAdam K, Houston S, Irwin MJ, Pharoah PDP, Brenton JD, Walton NA, Earland HM, Caldas C (2016) Computational pathology of pre-treatment biopsies identifies lymphocyte density as a predictor of response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer.  Breast Cancer Research 18:21. Published on line at http://breast-cancer-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13058-016-0682-8
  • Abraham JE, Hiller L, Dorling L, Vallier AL, Dunn J, Bowden S, Ingle S, Jones L, Hardy R, Twelves C, Poole CJ, Pharoah PD, Caldas C, Earl HM (2015) A nested cohort study of 6,248 early breast cancer patients treated in neoadjuvant and adjuvant chemotherapy trials investigating the prognostic value of chemotherapy-related toxicities. BMC Med. 2015 Dec 29;13:306. doi: 10.1186/s12916-015-0547-5
  • Francis A, Thomas J, Fallowfield L, Wallis M, Bartlett JMS , Brookes C, Roberts T, Pirrie S, Gaunt C, Young J, Billingham L, Dodwell D, Hanby A, Pinder SE, Evans A, Reed M, Jenkins V, Matthews L, Wilcox M, Fairbrother P, Bowden S, Rea D (2015) Addressing overtreatment of screen detected DCIS; the LORIS trial. Eur J Cancer. Published on line at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2015.07.017
  • Guo Q, Schmidt MK, Kraft P, Canisius S, Chen C, Khan S, Tyrer J, Bolla MK, Wang Q, Dennis J, Michailidou K, Lush M, Kar S, Beesley J, Dunning AM, Shah M, Czene K, Darabi H, Eriksson M, Lambrechts D, Weltens C, Leunen K, et al., (2015) Identification of Novel Genetic Markers of Breast Cancer Survival.  J Natl Cancer Inst: 107, No. 5
  • Pirie A, Guo Q, Kraft P, Canisius S, et al., (2015) Common germline polymorphisms associated with breast cancer-specific survival. Breast Cancer Research: 17(1):58 doi: 10.1186/s13058-015-0570-7
  • Ali HR, Glont SE, Blows FM3, Provenzano E, Dawson SJ, Liu B, Hiller L, Dunn J, Poole CJ, Bowden S, Earl HM, Pharoah PD, Caldas C (2015) PD-L1 protein expression in breast cancer is rare, enriched in basal-like tumours and associated with infiltrating lymphocytes. Ann Oncol. 26(7): 1488-93 
  • Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group (EBCTCG), Dowsett M, Forbes JF, Bradley R, Ingle J, Aihara T, Bliss J, Boccardo F, Coates A, Coombes RC, Cuzick J, Dubsky P, Gnant M, Kaufmann M, Kilburn L, Perrone F, Rea D, Thürlimann B, van de Velde C, Pan H, Peto R, Davies C, Gray R. (2015) Aromatase inhibitors versus tamoxifen in early breast cancer: patient-level meta-analysis of the randomised trials. Lancet.;386(10001):1341-52. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)61074-1. Epub 2015 Jul 23
  • Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group (EBCTCG), Coleman R, Powles T, Paterson A, Gnant M, Anderson S, Diel I, Gralow J, von Minckwitz G, Moebus V, Bergh J, Pritchard KI, Bliss J, Cameron D, Evans V, Pan H, Peto R, Bradley R, Gray R. (2015) Adjuvant bisphosphonate treatment in early breast cancer: meta-analyses of individual patient data from randomised trials. Lancet. 2015 Oct 3;386(10001):1353-61. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60908-4. Epub 2015 Jul 23
  • Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group (EBCTCG), (2014) Effect of radiotherapy after mastectomy and axillary surgery on 10-year recurrence and 20-year breast cancer mortality: meta-analysis of individual patient data for 8135 women in 22 randomised trials. Lancet. 2014 Jun 21;383(9935):2127-35. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60488-8. Epub 2014 Mar 19
  • Provenzano E, Vallier A-L, Champ R, Walland K, Bowden S, Grier A, Fenwick N, Abraham J, Iddawela M, Caldas C, Hiller L, Dunn J, and Earl HM (2013) A Central Review of Histopathology Reports after Breast Cancer Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy in the Neo-tAnGo Trial. BJC: 108, 866–872
  • Earl HM, Hiller L, Dunn JA, Vallier A, Bowden SJ, Jordan SD, Blows F, Munro A, Bathers S, Grieve R, Spooner DA, Agrawal R, Fernando I, Brunt AM, O’Reilly SM, Crawford SM, Rea DW, Simmonds P, Mansi JL, Stanley A, McAdam K, Foster L, Leonard RCF, Twelves CJ, Cameron D, Bartlett JMS, Pharoah P, Provenzano E, Caldas C, and Poole CJP for the NEAT Investigators and the SCTBG (2012) Adjuvant Epirubicin followed by Cyclophosphamide, Methotrexate and Fluorouracil (CMF) versus CMF in early breast cancer: Results with over seven years median follow-up from the randomised phase III NEAT/BR9601 trials. BJC: 107(8):1257-67
  • Pettit L, Hartley A, Bowden SJ, Mehanna H, Glaholm J, Cashmore J, Sanghera P.(2011) Variation in volume definition between UK head and neck oncologists treating oropharyngeal carcinoma. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 23(9):654-655
  • Daley AJ, Bowden SJ, Rea DW, Billingham L, Carmicheal AR (2008) What advice are oncologists and surgeons in the United Kingdom giving to breast cancer patients about physical activity? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5: 46-58
  • Donnelly P, Hiller H, Bathers S, Bowden S, Coleman R (2007) Questioning Specialists’ attitudes to breast cancer follow-up in primary care. Annals of Oncology, 18: 1467–1476.
  • Bowden SJ, Fernando IN & Burton A (2006) Delaying radiotherapy for the delivery of adjuvant chemotherapy in the combined modality treatment of early breast cancer: Is it disadvantageous and could combined treatment be the answer? Clinical Oncology 18 (3) 247-256.
  • Dunne FP, Bowden SJ, Brown JS, Ratcliffe WA & Browne RM (1994) Parathyroid hormone related protein (PTHrP) in oral squamous carcinomas invading the mandible. Journal of Clinical Pathology, 48: 300-303.
  • Emly JF, Gregory J, Bowden SJ, Ahmed A, Whittle MJ, Rushton DI & Ratcliffe WA (1994) Immunohistochemical localisation of parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) in human term placenta. Placenta, 15: 653-660.
  • Bowden SJ, Emly JF, Hughes SV, Powell G, Ahmed A, Whittle MJ, Ratcliffe JG & Ratcliffe WA (1994) Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) in human term placenta and membranes. Journal of Endocrinology, 142: 217-224.
  • Ratcliffe WA, Bowden SJ, Dunne FP, Hughes S, Emly J, Baker JT, Pye JK & Williams CP (1994) Expression and processing of parathyroid hormone-related protein in a pancreatic endocrine cell tumour associated with hypercalcaemia. Clinical Endocrinology, 40: 679-686.
  • Hutchesson ACJ, Hughes SV, Bowden SJ & Ratcliffe WA (1994) In vitro stability of endogenous parathyroid hormone-related protein in blood and plasma. Annals of Clinical Biochemistry, 31: 35-39.
  • Bowden SJ, Hughes SV & Ratcliffe WA (1993) Molecular forms of parathyroid hormone-related protein in tumours and biological fluids. Clinical Endocrinology, 38: 287-294.
  • Emly JF, Ratcliffe WA, Green E, Bowden SJ, Heath DA, Blight A, Hughes S & Ratcliffe JG (1992) Immunochemical characterisation of parathyroid hormone-related protein from tumour and non-tumour cells. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1180: 58-64.
  • Ratcliffe WA, Bowden SJ, Emly J, Hughes S & Ratcliffe JG (1992) Production and characterisation of monoclonal antibodies to the mid-region 37-67 sequence of parathyroid hormone-related protein. Journal of Immunological Methods, 146: 33-42

View all publications in research portal