Pre-IMPAKT Training course for young oncologists and research scientists - Interview with Dr Christine Desmedt

Intro text: 


On 6-7 May the Pre-IMPAKT training course on breast cancer will be hosted at the SQUARE Meeting Centre, based in the centre of Brussels. The course is dedicated to young, early-career researchers from various disciplines interested in breast cancer. It will cover key topics of translational research that are relevant to patient treatment and care in breast cancer.

What is the primary objective of the training course? Why should young oncologists be encouraged to attend?

The training course is dedicated not only to young, early-career oncologists, but also to young pathologists and surgeons, as well as basic science and bio-informatics PhD students. The objective of the training course is to initiate the audience to specific topics in breast cancer research so that they will be triggered to learn more about it and that it will be easier for them to understand the lectures given during IMPAKT. Additionally, we also integrated more practical sessions into the programme, which are very relevant to early-career researchers. Examples include tips and tricks to help them write successful grants and use publicly available resources.

Why, in your opinion, is such initiative important in the breast cancer research arena? 

In breast cancer research, as in any other cancer research, multidisciplinarity, the combination of different areas of expertise, is the key. This is reflected by the composition of many current research labs grouping different but complementary profiles, such as medical oncologists, pathologists, basic scientists, bio-informaticians and bio-statisticians. So, even if you are an expert in one specific domain of breast cancer research, you need to understand the basics of the other disciplines, to be able to communicate with each other. This is why in this training course we decided to cover different areas, going for example from basics in cancer biology to breast cancer pathology and statistics.

What did motivate you to be part of the training course Task Force?

I actually remember how I was when I started my PhD in breast cancer research in the field of gene expression arrays and how diverse and complicated the first conferences I attended looked to me. So, by setting up and making the programme of the training course, together with Peter Schmid and Fabrice André, I am always thinking on how we could help the young people (not that I consider myself old :-) ) to get the basics of the different areas from breast cancer research, so that they would be able to better understand and also have a critical view on the research which is presented during these congresses like IMPAKT and/or published in the literature.

In your role you have the opportunity to interact with young oncologists and researchers from around the world. How do you perceive this “new generation” of scientists? And how do you see research evolving in the next decade?

One of the main advantages of researchers starting their career now compared to those who started ten or twenty years ago, is that this ‘new generation’ of scientists starts with many more technological possibilities to investigate breast cancer biology. The other important difference lies in the public availability of a wide range of molecular and clinical data, such as those provided by these gigantic initiatives such as The Cancer Genome Atlas and the International Cancer Genome Consortium. This allows young scientists to do what is called ‘empty-wallet-research’ by recycling available data for the investigation of new hypotheses. Nevertheless, the challenge is and will be how to biologically integrate and interpret this avalanche of data and how to translate it into clinically meaningful information.