Each ITONF Subcommittee has its own Terms of Reference & Workplan

Research Sub-Committee: To develop research-related knowledge and skills capacity in the international thoracic oncology nursing community through the delivery of research-related educational support, academic mentorship and international nursing research opportunities. 

Research Lead: Melissa Culligan

Melissa Culligan (USA) is the Director of Clinical Research for the Division of Thoracic Surgery at Temple University Hospital.  She received her BSN from Wilkes University and a Master’s of Science degree from Drexel University College of Medicine in area of Clinical Research. She has more than 30 years of experience working in the field of thoracic surgery with a special focus and expertise in caring for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma and advanced stage lung cancer.  She is the co-author of multiple peer-reviewed papers on the topics of lung cancer and mesothelioma and has lectured nationally and internationally on the nursing care of patients undergoing thoracic surgery. She has a special interest in clinical trial development and management for thoracic oncology patients and leads multiple surgery-based clinical trials at Temple University Hospital and Fox Chase Cancer Center. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Her doctoral research is focused on the experience of dyspnea for patients undergoing lung-sparing surgery for malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Working Group Members: Vanessa Brunelli, Kate Slaven, Liz Waxman

Dr Vanessa Brunelli (AUS) is a Research Fellow in the team of Professor David Currow at University of Wollongong. Vanessa’s research program focuses on optimising the role and practices of the specialist lung cancer nurse with theoretically grounded, data driven models of care. In 2020, her NHMRC-funded PhD dissertation on this topic earned the Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award and Executive Dean’s Commendation for outstanding contribution to the field of research (at Queensland University of Technology). A core stream in Vanessa’s program is the design and development of an innovative, comprehensive framework for practice for advanced practice nurses working in lung cancer, in Australia. The ‘Expectations, Standards and Performance Framework for the Australian Specialist Lung Cancer Nurse’ is supported by a responsive, web-based platform that operationalises the framework in real time. The platform enables nurses to enter practice data across multiple jurisdictions and settings, consistently, providing the requisite knowledge and mechanisms to inform practice, policy, and resourcing. The framework reflects the foundation of the Specialist Lung Cancer Nurse Model of Care, currently being implemented by Lung Foundation Australia in the first federally funded Specialist Lung Cancer Nurse Demonstration Project. Vanessa is the Chief Investigator and Coordinating Principal Investigator of the Demonstration Project. Vanessa also maintains a strong commitment to leadership and development. She is the Chair of the Australia and New Zealand Lung Cancer Nurses Forum (ANZ-LCNF), Lead of the ANZ-LCNF Research and Education portfolios, Australia Representative on the National Leads’ Sub-Committee of the International Thoracic Oncology Nurses Forum, Scientific Committee Member of the Thoracic Oncology Group of Australasia, and Visiting Scholar of the International Centre for Community Driven Research, Geneva. In 2022, Dr. Brunelli received the prestigious Cancer Council Queensland Oncology Nurse of the Year Award (Research category). Vanessa’s 20+ years oncology nursing experience drives her strong research interest in improving the disease experience for people living with lung cancer, particularly through strategic cross-sector initiatives that develop scholarly evidence to inform lung cancer nursing workforce policy and practice.

Kate Slaven (UK). Kate’s first job as a qualified nurse was on an oncology ward – she loved it. That was a long time ago but she has stayed within that field for her entire career.  She has experience as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Lung Cancer, Mesothelioma, Specialist Palliative Care and Oncology Nursing working in England and Scotland.  Having worked in the different environments of medical oncology, radiotherapy, surgery, haematology, day units and clinics in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare, she has now found a place to focus.  Her current post is as Clinical Nurse Specialist in lung cancer and mesothelioma at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England. She is also one of the Mesothelioma UK Specialist Nurses and covers the East of England.  Kate is active in the field of research with particular focus on qualitative studies to explore patient experience and advocacy issues.  Her current study explores the impact of cough on quality of life in patients with mesothelioma. She has completed Master of Science in Advanced Nursing Practice (distinction).

Liz Waxman (USA) is a nurse practitioner in the Department of Thoracic/Head & Neck Medical Oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas. She has been an oncology nurse longer than she cares to admit. Her introduction to oncology was in New York, where she worked at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre. She has worked at M.D. Anderson since 1991, and in medical oncology specifically since 1999. Liz has seen many changes in the treatment of lung cancer leading to longer survival. She enjoys educational aspects of her job. Patient, family, staff education. She also enjoys collaborating with colleagues from other institutions and within her own institution. She is most excited about targeted therapies and the impact they have on patients in terms of quality of life, and survival. She thinks this is an exciting time in the treatment of lung cancer, with immunotherapy and new targeted therapies for patients.