- Please tell us a little bit about yourself (i.e. name, current degree program/department, supervisor/lab, previous education/experience etc.).
My name is Dr. Paola Arteaga, I am from Colombia where I received my medical oncology degree. I worked at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center with the University of Toronto for more than 2 years as a Clinical Research Fellow in Skin Cancer and Melanoma. Now, here at the London Regional Cancer Program in association with Western University, I am a Clinical and Research fellow in Breast Cancer.
- Why is the TBCRU Fellowship Award important to you, and how does it advance your research?
The TBRCU Fellowship Award has recognized my work in breast cancer and motivates me to work harder. This award is an important contribution to my career as this brings essential resources to fund my breast cancer research project. Without the support of the TBCRU and the Breast Cancer Society of Canada my work would not be possible.
- What is the objective of your research project and what problem(s) you hope to solve?
Breast cancer cells can remain after surgery, chemotherapy or other treatments. Over time, those breast cancer cells can come back and present as local or distant recurrence. At that moment, the standard clinical workup includes a tissue biopsy for characterization of the tumor features. Unfortunately, this is an invasive procedure and sometimes is not feasible. With this study, we aim to determine if a blood test (“liquid biopsy”) could potentially replace the tissue biopsy for diagnostic purposes.
- In a few lines, please describe your research project.
This study aims to assess if detecting circulating tumour cells (CTCs) and circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) in the bloodstream of patients with suspected recurrent metastatic breast cancer can be used to confirm recurrent breast cancer and to characterize the tumor features. If there is correlation with the standard tissue biopsy, the liquid biopsy could be used in future studies to confirm diagnosis and guide treatment decisions using a non-invasive procedure.
- Have there been any changes to or any advancements in your research since your project began?
To date, 43 patients who presented with highly suspicious metastatic breast cancer and underwent tissue biopsy have been enrolled in the study. Blood samples were collected and patient and tumour characteristics were recorded. Of these patients, 32 had biopsy and blood samples that were analyzed by our collaborator Epic Sciences. In the preliminary analysis, there appears to be good concordance between tumour and liquid biopsy. The use of liquid biopsy might therefore be a useful and less-invasive tool to confirm the presence of metastatic breast cancer at first recurrence.
- Have you had an opportunity to present (or publish) your research to your peers or the broader research community? Was it at a national or international meeting or in some other way?
At this time, we had the first interim analysis of the study. With these results, we were assured of the potential implications of our research. Furthermore, this warranted the continuation of the study. We are looking forward to presenting and publishing our findings once the follow-up data is available and full study analysis is completed.
- How will your research be applied in the clinic or in a real-world setting? How will patients benefit from the results of your work?
Liquid biopsy is a non-invasive procedure. If there is correlation with the standard tissue biopsy, the liquid biopsy could be used for patients with suspected recurrent breast cancer to confirm diagnosis and guide treatment decisions.
- Tell us about your involvement in the Breast Cancer Society of Canada fundraising events (Dress for the Cause, Mother’s Day Walk).
I have contributed to the fundraising events attending to signature events and have purchased products from the Shop Pink partners. I also play tennis and always use my pink balls, spreading awareness 1 ball at a time.
- What are your hobbies? What are you currently reading, watching or listening to outside of the lab?
Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, learning French and spending time with my partner and dog. I am also quite active and weather permitting I love ice skating, playing tennis, swimming or practicing yoga.