Interview with Dr. Gustavo Werutsky

Dr Gustavo Werutsky breast international group

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Meet Dr. Gustavo Werutsky, who joined BIG’s Executive Board last year. Dr. Werutsky shared his journey, professional insights, and the motivation behind his involvement with BIG. In this interview, we explore his background, expertise, and aspirations for shaping the future of breast cancer research within the BIG network.

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Dr Werutsky, can you tell us about your professional background and experience and what motivated you to apply and serve on the BIG Executive Board (EB)?

I’m a medical oncologist in the breast cancer programme at the Moinhos de Vento Hospital, principal investigator in breast cancer at the Research Center of the Hospital São Lucas PUCRS University and Executive Director of the Latin American Cooperative Oncology Group (LACOG) in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Over the last 14 years I have been involved with BIG in numerous ways. I started my activities as medical fellow of the TRANSBIG programme in 2009, during which I spent 3 years completing a fellowship at the EORTC. After this, I returned to Brazil to lead the LACOG group, which had just joined the BIG network. Despite the challenges of running academic studies in Latin America, I was able to implement the necessary operational activities to successfully participate in BIG studies.

I believe that BIG, as an international academic network, is in a distinct position to be at the forefront of global breast cancer research. So, joining the BIG Executive Board presents me with the possibility of contributing, through BIG, to a new era, and the future clinical trials, that will incorporate decentralised methods, digital health technologies and increased clinical trial access and diversity.

What specific expertise do you believe you can contribute to both BIG EB and the overall organisation?

On a daily basis, I am involved in the operational activities of our academic research group, and have been working on setting up several intergroup trials. Therefore, I will be able to contribute to BIG in these aspects and its operation. In particular, as an oncologist practicing in Brazil, I recognise similarities in terms of breast cancer burden in developing countries from Latin America, Africa and Asia. For example, the young age and high rate of locally advanced disease at diagnosis of patients. Thus, we have the possibility to develop important studies to improve the diagnosis and outcome of these patients, including biomarker discovery and personalised approaches, drug development, and de-escalation strategies which may significantly impact the health care costs in the end.

Please cite three elements that you find critical for the continued success of BIG in the next decade?

– Stimulate and streamline the process of new study proposals.

– Increase the group study portfolio, particularly in the consideration of studies in early stage drug development.

– Incorporate digital health devices/technologies in new clinical trial designs.

What values do you believe are essential to ensure a positive and successful future for BIG?

BIG’s value is its network of groups, its global footprint, scientific expertise and an outreach, through regional groups, of a diverse breast cancer patient population.

Thus, BIG is a unique organisation in breast cancer research for the future.

What are the biggest challenges currently faced by all stakeholders of the breast cancer research area? How do you think BIG can play a significant role in this context?

Historically the main challenge for all academic research groups is funding to support activities and long term sustainability. Fundraising initiatives will be critical.

Another important aspect is that with the progress made in personalised medicine in breast cancer treatment, BIG as a global network, has an advantage to perform large studies, biomarker-driven clinical trials and investigate genomic variations across the world.

Do you think we will see practice-changing results from breast cancer research in the next decade? Which ones?

Certainly, in the last decade great advances in breast cancer were observed e.g. molecular diagnosis, new agents such as immunotherapies, antibody-drug conjugates etc. In parallel, new drug development technologies were implemented as well as a spread of biotechs, and thus we are getting new medicines to patients more quickly.

In the coming years, we will see an improvement in cure rates for aggressive subtypes of early stage breast cancer, and with the rapid discovery of very effective therapies moving forward, metastatic breast cancer could see itself transformed into a chronic disease.

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