University Côte d’Azur PhD student at Institute for Research on Cancer and Aging, LPCE Nice (FRANCE)
December 2019 : Best Oral Communication Award
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deathworldwide. Several genomic alterations can be directlytargeted by specific therapies, thus improving the survival ofthese patients. However, the administration of these therapies requires the analysis of tumor material that is usually very scarce and can only be accessed by invasive procedures that are not always possible. Simon Heeke has been involved in the development of non-invasive tests based on a “liquidbiopsy” that requires only the patient’s blood to analyze circulating tumor cells and is therefore much less invasive.
He has been a former PhD student in the laboratory of Prof. Paul Hofman at the LPCE (CHU de Nice) and IRCAN in Nice and has completed his PhD in December 2019 with the title:“Development and implementation of novel predictive biomarkers in non-small cell lung cancer – from tissue toliquid biopsy”. Following his PhD, he joined the MD Anderson Cancer Center for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in March 2020.
While my PhD in Nice, I had the great pleasure to get in touch with renowned experts of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, the world’s leading Cancer Center, during the 1st FHU Oncoage Joint Meeting on Lung Cancer taking place in Nice in 2018. This exchange was further strengthened during the 2nd Joint Meeting on Lung Cancer in 2019 in Houston. Following this meeting, I had the great opportunity to join the laboratory of Prof. John V. Heymach as Postdoctoral Fellow. As part of the Department of Thoracic Head & Neck Medical Oncology, the main focus of the laboratory lies on the development of novel innovative therapies against lung cancer. I joined the team in March 2020, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I spend most of the time working remotely. Nevertheless, I was very well introduced in the team and could rapidly establishnew collaborations with various researchers. Thanks to the data analysis skills that I gained during my PhD in the LPCE Nice, much work is done in silico.
In the lab of Prof. Heymach (link), I continue my work on biomarkers for an effective treatment in lung cancer with a special interest on liquid biopsies to guide a truly personalized treatment strategy for each patient. This work is mainlyenabled by having access to a huge collection of patient derived material obtained during the numerous clinical trials that are ongoing at the Center. While access to the lab is possible since few weeks, face masks are compulsory inside and outside of the lab at any time (see Photo). However, social distancing is easiest in those times by enjoying the stunningly beautiful nature of Texas.
In summary, working at the MD Anderson is a certainly very stimulating experience and research is fast and focused even when working remotely and I am grateful for having the great opportunity to be part of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, which was enabled by the FHU Oncoage and the personal investment of Prof. Paul Hofman.