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What does a breast cancer researcher do?

October 12, 2010

Found in Breast Cancer

As you might imagine, leading the BC Cancer Agency’s breast cancer research program keeps me very busy! And I’m not the only one: my lab, located in the BC Cancer Agency’s Research Centre, is full of students, postdoctoral researchers and technicians working away on their research projects. In the office areas nearby, teams of programmers and statisticians are busy analyzing the massive amounts of data we produce every day.

On a typical day, I’ll meet with several members of my team, as well as other principal investigators from the BC Cancer Agency, to discuss our current research. I’ll also call or email some of our many collaborators across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Japan. These conversations tend to focus on the details of our research — new data, new methods and tools for data analysis, papers we’re writing up for publication, that kind of thing.

But I don’t spend all day in my office and lab. The BC Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Centre, where patients come for diagnosis and treatment, is literally just across the street; I spend a lot of time in that building, too, meeting with some of the Agency’s physicians and nurses.

This close link between research and treatment at the BC Cancer Agency is vital to our efforts to develop better treatments for women with breast cancer. It also saves those of us on the research side of things from getting too focused on the details of our projects.

Talking to colleagues who treat breast cancer patients every day, and meeting patients and survivors — in the elevator or at the coffee shop, or during fundraising events such as the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers — serves as a constant reminder. A reminder that despite some recent victories (such as being the first group to sequence the complete genome of a breast tumour and a subsequent recurrence in the same patient), there is still a lot of work to be done. We need to stay focused on the big picture: getting the best possible breast cancer treatments to the right patients at the right time.

In my next post, I’ll be telling you more about some of the projects we’re working on at the moment and how they fit into this overall goal.

I’d also like to hear from you: do you have any questions about breast cancer research that you’d like me to answer in one of my posts later this month? Leave a comment!