Here are some final concluding thoughts from last week's Faculty Retreat, where our new molecular pathology and radiotherapy and imaging researchers presented their plans for the future.
So much brilliant research and plans were presented, it is hard to summarise it all here, but I thought I would try and put down what for me were the key take-home messages from the day.
Tumour heterogeneity is posing a real challenge to how we approach precision medicine. Many of the talks touched on the fact that by monitoring the tumours molecularly for resistance before resistance becomes clinically visible, we may be able to switch treatments at an earlier stage. By doing this, doctors may be able to keep patients responding to treatments for longer.
Research into the tumour microenvironment may also hold some keys to understanding tumour progression and response to therapies and could aid early diagnosis and treatment strategies. One promising example is that of cancer-associated fibroblasts – an area Dr Fernando Calvo discussed at the event.
Our new Centre for Cancer Imaging has big plans – including searching for innovative imaging probes so researchers can see what oncogenes and signalling pathways are driving cancer. This will aid doctors to select appropriate therapies based on the individual patient’s characteristics, helping to direct the precision medicine strategies we employ. Fine tuning these imaging probes is also a must.
Going beyond genes, proteins and cells, we also must strive to enhance our accuracy in delivering radiotherapy. By imaging a patient in real time using techniques such as 4D ultrasound, we can track internal and external movements of the patient, so that minimal damage is inflicted on the vital organs surrounding tumours.
I believe the passion and drive I saw from our newest faculty recruits will push our already brilliant science to the next level. I will certainly be keeping tabs on how these exciting new avenues of research progress.
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