One of the biggest game-changing advancements in cancer care came about 20 years ago when researchers learned that they could create medicines that selectively jam up cancer’s growth machinery without damaging the rest of the body. Today these medicines, called targeted therapies, are available for treating many forms of cancer.
Targeted therapies took center stage when Alice Shaw started her career as a physician-scientist caring for patients with lung cancer. Now, as Global Head of Translational Clinical Oncology at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), Shaw aims to design innovative clinical trials to help bring potentially transformative cancer medicines and combinations of cancer medicines to patients.
“The advent of targeted therapies in solid tumors was a key moment for me and also for the whole field,” says Shaw. “These advancements gave everyone, including myself, hope that we would be able to continue to forge ahead and discover new targets and new therapies for patients in need.”
Shaw has dedicated her career to doing exactly that. For 15 years she worked as a clinical investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, in the US, where she ran clinical trials of many experimental medicines, conducted translational research, and cared for patients with lung cancer. During that time, she helped lung cancer care evolve from a field with few options for patients to one with many clinically proven therapies that enable patients to live longer, higher-quality lives.
Now at Novartis, Shaw is applying what she learned about running clinical trials to the task of designing them. Her focus has also expanded beyond lung cancer to all forms of cancer and beyond targeted therapies to a range of new approaches to cancer treatment, such as immunotherapies, cell and gene therapies, and radioligand therapies.
Shaw spoke to us about her vision for advancing oncology medicine.
We need to innovate in the clinical trial space.
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The Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) is the innovation engine of Novartis.