Thursday, 15 June 2017

Promise in Cancer Research – Young Researcher Series


video


Nicole Pinto, PhD candidate
Anatomy and Cell Biology
Western University

What area of research are you in? How did you get there?
I am currently in the third year of my PhD and have previously completed my undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Guelph. While my Masters research was unrelated to cancer, it was my volunteer work at the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, ON) that proved to be the most formative experience for me. While at SickKids, I volunteered in the Haematology/Oncology department where I was able to spend my time with children who had different cancer diagnoses. Volunteering at SickKids highlighted how devastating this disease is for everyone involved, and this led me to my current doctoral research with Dr. Anthony Nichols, where I study a rare type of thyroid cancer called anaplastic thyroid cancer. While anaplastic thyroid cancer is rare, it is almost universally fatal and currently has no effective therapies. My research focuses on understanding the complex genetic alterations underlying this disease and learning how we can target these changes in order to improve the otherwise dismal outcomes associated with this disease.

What about this field makes it exciting?
What I find most exciting about this field is the fact that it is always changing and there are always new developments and research breakthroughs. As a researcher, there are constantly new things to learn and incorporate into my own work and it is a great opportunity to meet others and collaborate in order to better my own research.

Who are you outside of the lab? What might you do on a typical day off?
Outside of the lab, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I also thoroughly enjoy cooking! I’d like to say I’m a fairly decent cook and baker. I definitely think I use it as a stress-reliever, and I love that I can be fully immersed in it all the way from the start to finish.

How has cancer research impacted you?
Working at the London Regional Cancer Program is really a constant reminder of the importance of our work. Being located here emphasizes the fact that cancer is a universal disease and can affect any person regardless of age/race. To me, seeing the universality of this disease really stresses the importance of understanding cancers on a basic level, and I hope to contribute to this understanding with my own work.

What would you like to see cancer research accomplish your lifetime?
The idea of personalized medicine is very exciting to me. Being capable of knowing the genetic background of an individual and more importantly understanding how this information can be used to better treat patients is a very promising approach for helping those with complex conditions.
What is the one thing you want people to know about cancer?
We are all aware that cancer is a devastating diagnosis; however, what is important for people to understand is that there is constant progress in this field. Year by year you can see the advancements being made and the improvements in patient outcomes. It is also very important to realize that all of the progress being made is a result of a massive collaborative effort. When progress is made, it is not just because of the researchers, but also largely in part due to the individuals’ that have been there to help raise awareness and gather funding, which propels these studies forward.