Reenika and Andrew:
Reenika recently completed her Master of Public Health specializing in epidemiology at the University of Toronto. Prior to this, she completed her undergraduate degree in Health Studies at the University of Waterloo.
Andrew is a third year medical student at the University of Toronto. During his first year he received CREMS funding to work in the Liu lab where he studies lung cancer screening. His research interest currently centres around early detection in oncology. Previously, he has conducted research at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and London Regional Cancer Centre focusing on different aspects of oncology research, from liquid biopsies to head-and-neck cancer survivorship.
How do you both work together? What roles do each of you play in your work?
Our different backgrounds gives us each unique perspective on how to solve problems. The diversity in views is a strength that we lean heavily on throughout the research process. Andrew, coming from a medical perspective, handles the background research and database work. Reenika, coming from an epidemiology background, deals with study methodology and data analysis. We work together to build a final manuscript. Our unique strengths and experience in research complement each other well.
What field of work did the both of you do prior to working in the Liu lab?
Reenika: I had done previous research in vaccination hesitancy and epidemiology, as well as social advocacy.
Andrew: I always had an interest in oncology prior to entering the Liu lab. I previously worked with several radiation oncologist in Toronto and London on clinical trials, program development, and technique development. Lung cancer screening is currently in its infancy but developing at a very rapid rate. As a result, I jumped at the opportunity to work with Dr. Liu and the Princess Margaret lung screening team.
Why was your research important? Who/what did it benefit?
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related mortality in Canada. The reason lung cancer has been so difficult to treat is that patients are often asymptomatic until late stages, where we often do not have as many treatment options. The goal of lung cancer screening is to detect lung cancer when it is still in the early stage, when we still can cure it. Our lung cancer screening projects all revolve around how best to implement cancer screening. The vision we have for our research work is to provide evidence that will inform the future development of lung cancer screening.
Why is lung cancer screening important- for research and patient purposes?
Lung cancer is a complicated disease with poor outcomes and high mortality. Screening allows for us to detect cancer in its early stages allowing for early intervention. This prevents the cancers from progressing and leads to better outcomes for patients, reducing mortality. This is important for patients and their families because it allows them to take control of their health in a sense because if their cancer is detected early it can be life saving. Research is an ever-turning wheel. Lung cancer screening is more recently being recommended for routine practice by family physicians and Ontario recently implemented a pilot lung cancer screening program this year. This is an exciting time for research as we can see how well LC screening works in our population and how we can further improve practices.
When doing presentations on your projects, where did you present your work? Did these experiences help you in your careers, and if so, could you explain why?
Tampa, Florida - American Society of Preventive Oncology (2019)
Ottawa, Canada - Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics (2019)
San Diego, California - American Society of Clinical Oncology Quality (2019)
Vienna, Austria - European Society of Radiology (2019)
Presenting at conferences is an excellent opportunity to present your work, learn about current research happening in the field, and to meet other scientists.
What was the most satisfying aspect of working in the lab?
With a lot of research, the work you do is far removed from the benefit. But working in this lab, the work we do has a direct impact on patient care. Each lung cancer case we capture within our screening program is another life impacted.
Where do you see yourselves working/doing/studying in 10 years? Where would you like your careers to progress?
Reenika: Working for a public health organization combining my epidemiology work with knowledge translation and policy change.
Andrew: I hope to be in a position to perform research to solve the problems we see in clinic. In medicine, we often spend a lot of time applying known solutions to known problems. But in research, you get the opportunity to develop new solutions to unsolved problems. Being a physician who does research affords you that unique opportunity.