News: WCD2016 Special Feature: Cancer research in a glimpse

Two oncology researchers offer their thoughts on the current state of cancer research


In conjunction with World Cancer Day 2016, AMOR Media in exclusive interviews reached out to two Trinity College Dublin (TCD) scholars to talk about cancer researchers – those who work so tirelessly to unlock the answers on how to prevent, detect and treat all forms of cancers and to help alleviate the weighty burden on patients affected by these deadly maladies.

Laure Marignol

“Personalized medicine will continue to explode but it will take time to translate into real changes for patients.”
    – Laure Marignol

  “Cancer is a very heterogeneous disease and the management of patients based on population-based guidelines is likely not optimal,” said Associate Professor Dr Laure Marignol from TCD’s Discipline of Radiation Therapy when asked about the drawbacks of current cancer management methods.

One of the solution could be “[t]he development of strategies, likely based on a combination of genetic and image-guided profiling,” opined Marignol, who works on tumour radiobiological identification through adaptation of state-of-the art interdisciplinary methodologies.

In tackling the escalating cancer costs which continue to burden cancer patients, Marignol believes that the key is “to develop better patient stratification systems that will allow us to, of course, initially detect the disease but, more importantly, allow us to match patients with the best treatment.”

Assistant Professor Anita O’Donovan, also from TCD’s Discipline of Radiation Therapy, on the other hand, said that current cancer management methods lack a suitable evidence base for older patients.

“Considering that the majority of cancer patients are older, this is a major shortcoming,” she highlighted. “But something we are trying to address by focusing research in geriatric oncology.”

Anita O'Donovan

“There is a much greater need to build knowledge in this area on how to better treat and support older patients with cancer.”
 – Anita O’Donovan

O’Donovan, who specializes in Geriatric Assessment, said, “I think that cancer care facilities should strive to promote patient-centred care at all times, and incorporate patient needs and wishes as far as possible. Part of patient-centred care is the necessity to provide flexibility and support if patients have financial difficulties, and offering the appropriate support to help alleviate that stress.”

When asked what more could be done to help cancer organizations and advocates to further increase cancer awareness, Marignol stated that she wanted to see increased campaigns on TV to raise awareness of symptoms, early detection and so on.

“Encourage people to get checked,” she urged. “Promote healthy living. Help the public to navigate the food industry labels and to choose the best food options.”

Concurring with Marignol’s view, O’Donovan said, “I think that clinicians should be more involved in public engagement in the aim of promoting awareness.” She further added, “Relationships should be built with the media in order to increase public reach.”

With regards to the future of oncology research and what they hope to achieve as researchers in this field, both Marignol and O’Donovan remain cautious yet optimistic.

“Personally, my research is focused on older patients,” said O’Donovan. “I think this is a growing concern worldwide and there is a much greater need to build knowledge in this area on how to better treat and support older patients with cancer.”

She added, “Issues such as under-treatment have been highlighted in the past, but unless we have the appropriate evidence base, it’s going to be difficult to overcome this.”

Marignol, meanwhile, hoped for a more multidisciplinary approach in cancer research.

“Personalized medicine will continue to explode but it will take time to translate into real changes for patients,” she said.

“There will be a large portfolio of treatments available but perhaps only a few percentage of patient population will be eligible for each,” she explained, adding, “This is difficult because it is expensive to create these tests and develop these new treatments.”

  As a researcher, Marignol hopes to identify features that can help distinguish patients that will do well from those that might not.

“This will require a multi-disciplinary approach,” she said. “New age researchers will need to be trained in several field, I think, as each discipline can no longer work in isolation.”