Today, we had the chance to sit down with Dr. Elena López, Breast Cancer Specialist from the Ramon y Cajal Hospital in Madrid, Spain and MedSIR’s Oncologist of the Month. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:
MedSIR (MS): Thanks so much, Dr. López, for being with us today. It really is a pleasure for us to interview someone of your talent and passion for the field of Medical Oncology in general and, specifically, Breast Cancer.
Dr. Elena López (EL): The pleasure is mine. Thank you for inviting me.
MS: Before we jump into the amazing advances currently happening in cancer research, let’s get to know you a little bit better. What brought you to Oncology? When did you realize that you wanted to help in this fight against cancer?
EL: Honestly, I was sure I wanted to be a doctor since I was young, but I decided to specialize in Oncology the last year of my degree, 16 years ago. The reasons that encouraged me were that, in the clinical practice, Oncologists carry out a very gratifying task, helping others. Regarding the research aspect, Oncology is a specialization with a huge and an amazing field to discover. Even though today we have improved the treatments and the prognosis of our patients, these are not enough and we still have a lot of things to discover. I´m very enthusiastic about it.
MS: Very interesting! So, today you are currently working in the position of Medical Oncologist at Ramón y Cajal Hospital. How did you get there? What were your career steps? Who were the people who most influenced you along the way?
EL: When I finished my specialization in Oncology at the Ramón y Cajal Hospital, I started to work as an Oncologist in a small hospital. But, I knew that I wanted to work in a big and influential hospital, such as Ramón y Cajal, and I fortunately achieved it. In this hospital I became part of the Breast Cancer Department and two years later, Dr. Javier Cortés took charge. It was a great change and a positive opportunity for all, and especially for me. Javier is a very enthusiastic person who constantly motivates me and who is continuously coming up with interesting new ideas to better the way we treat our patients.
MS: Your specialty is Breast Cancer. What are the most recent advances that have you thinking that we are close to making big steps towards even better outcomes?
EL: I consider that the most recent advances are our knowledge in molecular biology together with the design of better, innovative trials with treatments focused on very specific patient populations with, for example, a specific biomarker or a mutation. Also, we need to change how we approach our everyday way of doing things. One example is to learn to be more proactive in quickly getting our ideas turned into good, potentially game-changing, clinical trials and getting patients on these trials quickly. There’s a lot of work to be done still in this field. Time and bringing people together to work efficiently are huge factors to achieve this goal.
MS: Let’s focus more on the PIQHASSO (PQR309-007) Study that MedSIR is collaborating on with Piqur. As Principal Investigator in your hosptial, what do you think about its study design? Recruitment in this study is going so well. What benefit do patients have to participate in this study?
EL: This is a phase 1/2b study that investigates the safety and the efficacy of PQR309, a pan-class I PI3K inhibitor with a balanced activity against m-TOR, in combination with eribulin in patients diagnosed with advanced HER2-negative and triple-negative breast cancer. The PI3K-mTOR pathway plays an important role in tumor-cell proliferation and in the development of resistance to treatments. On the other side, an important average of breast cancer has an alteration in this pathway. The PIQUR309-007 trial has a perfect and interesting design and it offers the patients the possibility to be treated with a combination treatment with a PQR309 drug targeted to an essential pathway.
MS: I’m glad you value this study and what it may bring to your patients. It’s always nice to hear! So, speaking about MedSIR, how do you personally view what MedSIR brings to the table? How would you describe in few words your experience working with us? What makes us different?
EL: MedSIR is a company who -thanks to the strong minds it identifies and works with- develops outstanding trial designs which are innovative and “fresh” trials. They give the opportunity to young investigators with great ideas to develop a trial. This is very unique and of major value to both patients and pharma companies. Often, the best-known oncologists are not always the ones with the best, most innovative ideas. I'm very proud of being part of this team and hopefully can continue to work with MedSIR for many years to come.
MS: What’s your opinion on how the MedSIR model is being received on the outside.
EL: MedSIR is acquiring more and more relevance in the world of research, contributing to the development of new treatments. Obviously, breast cancer is where they have grown the most and fastest, but they are also doing some nice things in other tumors and, thanks to their simple and easy concept, will no doubt continue to grow. I believe there is a great future waiting for MedSIR.
MS: Thank you so much, Dr. López, for your time. It was really a pleasure to spend this moment with you.
EL: Many thanks to you as well!