1. Who are you? Tell us about yourself.
My name is Matthew Mouawad, I am a 5th year PhD student in the department of Medical Biophysics at Western University. I work under the supervision of Dr. Stewart Gaede, who is a Medical Physicist at the London Regional Cancer Program, and Dr. Neil Gelman, an imaging scientist at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Before my PhD, I completed an honours BMSc in Medical Biophysics at Western.
2. Why is the TBCRU Studentship Award important to you?
I was recruited to analyze data that came in from a clinical trial. The trial is investigating a radical change in the way we treat breast cancer patients, attempting to significantly reduce treatment time, and relieve the burden on patients. The TBCRU’s funding has been integral to the research we are doing.
3. Tell us about your research. What are you doing and what problems do you hope to solve?
In my previous post, I focused on the innovation of the clinical trial. However, a major part of this trial is investigating imaging biomarkers in an attempt to obtain metrics that will allow us to not only understand the biological response to high dose radiotherapy, but to potentially provide personalized, patient-centered care in the future.
One thing in particular that we want to understand is how early patients can be imaged after radiotherapy treatment. There are biological changes immediately after high dose radiotherapy that would negatively influence response assessment, but these are short-lived. In this study, we identified that by imaging at 2.5 weeks post radiotherapy, we could see clear signs of tumour regression.
4. Why is your research important? How can your research be applied in the real world?
Overall, the goal of our research is to minimize the physical and emotional burden on the significant number of patients who are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. In the future, we hope to investigate ways of using radiotherapy to potentially eliminate the need for surgery. My research sets the stage for this type of study to be used successfully in the real-world.
5. What inspired your research?
Although the typical treatment course for early stage breast cancer is effective, it is much too long, and involves invasive surgery and 5-8 weeks of radiotherapy. The need to provide better care is what inspired this particular clinical trial. In addition, it was identified that better care could be provided using imaging, which my research focuses on.
6. Why are you passionate about breast cancer research?
I knew from an early age that I wanted to be involved and make an impact in the field of medicine and oncology. Breast cancer affects so many lives – both patients and their families. I knew that this project could lead to significant relief of the burden experienced by so many.
7. Why do you think breast cancer research matters?
This disease impacts the lives of so many women, as well as their family, friends, and others who surround them. Conducting breast cancer research on how reduce the burden caused by this cancer will affect a significant number of lives.
8. What excites you about your work?
I’m excited by the fact that my studies are the first of their kind, showing very promising results - we can potentially assess response as early as 2.5 weeks post-treatment! I am very excited that my work will play a significant role in future trials that modify the radiation dose so accurately, that one day surgery may not be needed at all.
9. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I plan to continue to impact the field of oncology as a medical physicist.
10. What do you like to do when you aren't working on research?
I nerd it up playing board games and Dungeons and Dragons!
Support researchers like Matthew Mouawad by considering a donation to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada. Find out how you can help fund life-saving research, visit bcsc.ca/donate