Dr. Aline Fares

I completed my medical degree in 2010 at the University of Catanduva, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and pursued residency in internal medicine (2011-2012) and medical oncology (2013-2016) at the AC Camargo Cancer Center. Master of Science (2016-2018) by the AC Camargo Cancer Center, Sao Paulo, Brazil. I am specialized in Thoracic malignancies (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre 2018-2020). 

I am currently working as a medical oncologist at the Hospital de Base de Sao Jose do Rio Preto, Sao Paulo, Brazil. 




 

  1. I hear you are working on many projects. Can you tell us about them?

Yes, I am involved in many projects thanks to Geoff! As soon as I got in Toronto and approached him showing interest in learning how to properly do research, he started to mentor me, and we built a great mentor/mentee relationship. He would spend 1-2h a week teaching me, counselling me in various matters, as a mentor and friend. I am forever grateful. 

About my projects: I’ve put together a large database of never smokers patients that developed lung cancer without obvious alterations in their DNA. This is a rare population and we managed to get almost 200 patients treated at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre! We also did a bunch of translational work for these patients, sequencing their DNA and RNA, searching for different mutation patterns, fusions, etc. With this project, I learned how to liaise with different labs and professionals from different areas. It’s very challenging, but it thought me so much!  

I’ve also put together a database of esophageal cancer where we measured body compositions, such as different types of adiposity and muscularity. We are currently searching for biomarkers in these patients’ bloods that could anticipate body measurements’ abnormalities that could potentially impact in treatment tolerance or even patient survival. Also, for this specific project, I had to liaise with a team of radiologists and statisticians. In this project, I had the opportunity to co-mentor 3 summer students (Joelle, Wanning and Tyler). This was a valuable experience, as I am currently responsible for mentoring med school students at the local University.

Last, but not least, my main projects were in lung cancer and epidemiology – COS-ILCCO – one of Geoff’s big collaboration projects. This is a multinational collaboration project in lung cancer, where we correlate lung cancer patients’ survival with prognostic and even predictive factors. We’ve built three big projects out of this same database: BMI & overall survival; Smoking cessation & overall survival and clinic-pathological predictors of EGFR mutation. 

I was involved since the initial conceptualization of the latest two projects and I met PIs from different research centers worldwide, which is great for networking and career development. I went to the Annual ILCCO meeting in Lyon, France, in 2019 and I had the opportunity to present our work to the ILCCO PIs, get some feedback and put together new ideas. 


 

2. Why did you come to Canada to do your lung cancer fellowship?

I went to Canada in 2015, during my last year of medical oncology residency, to do a 1 month-observership. That was when I first met Dr. Natasha Leighl, who’s currently the director of the Thoracic Oncology programme at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. I’ve always been interested in research and the research training in Brazil is very basic. Doctors are usually trained to assist patients only, not to create and build research. After my observership I was determined to go back to Canada for a fellowship to learn how to do research and improve my clinical knowledge in lung cancer. 

 

3. What will you be doing after you return to Brazil?

I am currently hired as a medical oncologist at the academic hospital in Sao Jose do Rio Preto, Sao Paulo. Therefore, I am in close contact with residents and med students. I treat patients with lung cancer and breast cancer. As this is a new oncologic center, I am responsible for organizing the tumor boards in both areas, to discuss with surgeons and radiation doctors what is the best approach to each patient. In terms of research, I am liaising with the bench scientists at the University to do projects together. I am also creating surveys to apply in my Institution. I am using a lot of what I learned at the Liu lab with everyone (Deval, Cathi, Erin, Katrina, etc.) and of course, Geoff and this is helping me to deal with challenges and to better plan next steps.

 

4. Tell us about some of the awards you have won:

I won an ASCO 2020 Merit Award. Merit Awards are offered to high-qualities abstracts submitted by trainees to the American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting. This award had a special meaning to me, as when I applied, I was 8 months pregnant of my first child, Sarah. The project is a pooled analysis of the ILCCO database on smoking cessation in lung cancer patients. We demonstrated that even if one quit smoking just 2 years before lung cancer diagnosis, survival is improved compared to a current smoker at the time of diagnosis. This abstract had such an impact in health care that it was awarded one of the TOP 12 abstracts presented at ASCO 2020 (out of 2,215 abstracts) and received special cover by the press conference.

Also for the same project I won the Novartis Oncology Young Investigator Award (NOYCIA) and the Medical Research Day Award offered by University Health Network (UHN).