(Well, I have taken my time to write my first official blog post… The delay is mainly attributable to a lot of self-doubt! I am sure it could have been better written, the topic better chosen and a particularly better title selected (it does not convince me at all!). However, I think the best is to get this out to avoid overthinking it and keep the blog timely and fresh… Hopefully I will get better by practicing! Bear with me…)
Two weeks ago I attended the Drug Development Unit’s (DDU) Open Evening for the second time and, once again, I was deeply touched. The DDU of the Royal Marsden Hospital is one of the largest Phase I clinical trial units in the world and I feel really honored to collaborate with them as part of my fellowship. Every two years, the DDU organizes an Open Evening for the patients and their families in order to thank them, to show them the science they do and to allow them to get to know the people behind the scenes that they normally don’t meet when they go to the Hospital. I think is an extremely nice thing to do and we are very happy to be asked to participate showing a little bit of our Data Science.
The event started with a presentation where the former and present heads of the DDU walked us through the story of the Unit. It was amazing to hear how things have evolved in just over a decade from Prof. Stan Kaye and Prof. Johann de Bono! After the introduction, Dr. Sarah Halford from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) spoke about historical collaborations with the DDU funded by CRUK. Next, two patients shared with us their story, their views and their struggle but also how thankful they are to all the members of the DDU. It was very very emotional! Then, two nurses explained their work to celebrate world nurses day and acknowledge their key contribution. Finally, time for drinks and nibbles and to visit the many poster and science outreach activities. It was a pleasure to show a glimpse of what we do to the patients and their families and the outreach activity showing how drugs interact with proteins using Virtual Reality was fun and entertaining and a lot of patients asked us to try it. It was really nice and rewarding!
As a postdoc I often find myself worrying about not having published enough papers, not having published them in sufficiently good journals, my current project advancing too slowly, my chances of getting a junior PI position, etc. They are everyday concerns shared by most –if not all– postdocs; pressure is high. However, no matter how tiny you feel your contribution is, in cancer research we are all working towards the same objective: to help cancer patients. I feel really lucky to have landed a postdoc position at the ICR and be working in cancer research with such talented colleagues that remind me that, collectively, we are advancing; we are getting new drugs to the clinic, extending their use, improving the lives of many cancer patients little by little, step by step, even if I feel that my actual contribution is extremely extremely tiny. I know I shouldn’t be reminded of this but, still, it helps a lot to get out of your postdoc bubble and meet the patients. A very good reminder of why we do what we do.
PS. Surfing through the Internet I found a blog of one of the patients who attended the DDU Open Evening! I really recommend reading “Rayandmave's Blog: Mavis`s Fight with Mesthelioma”, a honest and beautiful diary of her fight with the disease. Marvi seems to have enjoyed the day and it helped her get thought the first day of treatment after her cancer had relapsed. Marvi even had some nice words for our outreach activity:
“I also had a session with Drug Discovery adventure game where looked at the virtual Cancer cell through a head set that I had this cell right in front of me and I could grab it twist it and look inside. Amazing !!!”
I clearly need to get better at getting the actual science across but… could it be any nicer?