Sep 18, 2019
At the 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting, the Global Oncology Young Investigator Award (GO YIA) was first awarded to seven researchers. Two of the inaugural GO YIA recipients, Monica Rivera Franco, MD, MSc, of the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán, and Edward Briercheck, MD, PhD, of the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, share their inspiration, an inside look at their research projects, and how the GO YIA made their work possible.
What first inspired your interest in global oncology?
MR: I considered it necessary to be involved in global oncology because of the scarcity of health staff involved in this area in Mexico. I thought that beginning to be part of this relatively new field was the first step towards improving cancer care and research in a limited-resource scenario and helping patients indirectly.
EB: During my doctoral work, I had the privilege of working alongside scientists that were truly crossing the frontiers of discovery. At the same time, I was participating in several student groups focused on global health equity, and I began to question if our discoveries were ever going to reach some patients. While cancer has not traditionally been a focus of global health efforts, the reality is that cancer is an ongoing and growing problem, with many regionally specific cancer challenges. This presents an incredibly exciting opportunity for discovery and impact.
Since receiving the GO YIA in 2018, what are some advances that your project has made?
MR: I was able to develop a cloud-based electronic application to investigate the feasibility of collecting and analyzing demographic, clinical, and outcome data on hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) recipients at four of the most prestigious and renowned public Mexican centers. We currently acknowledge the number, characteristics, and outcomes of the HSCT performed during a 4-year period (2015-2018) at half of the public centers in the country performing this procedure. It was feasible to start a multicenter collaborative study in Mexico… because there is an urgent need for a national HSCT Registry to acknowledge the results and plan strategies to improve outcomes. Data collection was feasible at the centers as long as data managers were actively involved, as physicians at all centers have substantial clinic workload and they lack specific staff to perform this task. This project has been presented to almost all eight public centers so that a Mexican HSCT Registry can be created in the near future.
EB: We have been able to complete a clinical and pathologic review of nearly 1,000 lymphoma cases in Guatemala, with concomitant expression analysis. This has allowed us to continue our work towards developing a low-cost predictive diagnostic. We hope to have our first iteration of this test in the coming months. We have also been able to develop further collaborative relationships led by Dr. Yaso Natkunam at Stanford University, Dr. Fabiola Valvert at I.N.C.A.N. in Guatemala, and Dr. David Weinstock at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Dxterity.
How did the GO YIA make your project possible?
MR: Financial support was mandatory. The GO YIA was essential in developing an electronic application to register HSCT data and hiring data managers to collect information at the participating centers. Also, when visiting the centers for the first time to invite them to participate, the fact that this study was sponsored by Conquer Cancer automatically gave prestige and credibility to the research project.
EB: The GO YIA was absolutely essential to our efforts. While there exists incredible research opportunity and need in low-resource settings, these efforts are often stymied by the lack of foundational funding. The GO YIA allowed us to invest in important in-country efforts and infrastructure that will have benefits both in this study and future endeavors.