What are your current research interests and/or what is a project you are currently working on?
Liver cancer is the only cancer for which mortality has increased over the last 10 years, despite all the advances in the surgical and medical treatments. My lab is working to tackle this problem by approaching it from multiple directions. Most importantly, we are working on finding effective combinations of drugs to treat liver cancer, while avoiding many of the toxicities of the treatments currently approved for it.
Every cancer is different and our approach applies individualized combinations that take into account how every tumor and patient responds differently to the same drug or drug combinations. By changing the composition and the doses of the drugs in the combinations in a systematic fashion, we can find optimized individualized regimens. We have applied this approach clinically to other problems such as transplant immunosuppression, and we hope to bring this approach to the treatment of liver cancer as well.
How did you end up going into medicine and/or why did you decide on your specialty?
Medicine provides a great combination of the ability to interact with people on a daily basis, to help treat and heal people one at a time and to work with amazing, dedicated and selfless people in the process. It also provides the opportunity to help on a larger scale, engaging in basic, translational and clinical research, to push the field forward, to solve difficult problems and to challenge the status quo. I chose transplantation and liver surgery because it offers all of the above and is so multidisciplinary. My patients are some of the most complex. They are often the sickest patients in the hospital. What I enjoy most is seeing how amazingly better patients get within hours of being transplanted and being almost unrecognizably better a few months afterward.
What excites you about your work? What is exciting to you about your field right now?
Doctors have always treated and continue to treat their patients as individuals. Patients are all unique and doctors need to understand how to systematically treat them all according to their unique natures. Personalized medicine is becoming increasingly possible, with molecular medicine techniques rapidly advancing and data science helping to understand how things beyond simple diagnoses affect how we need to care for our patients. Instead of choosing the same drug or drugs for the same disease in different patients, we will soon be able to choose the best drug for each patient’s complex situation and to respond to how each patient’s situation changes over time. This is the promise of the future of medicine – the right drug for the right disease in the right patient at the right time.