A Profa. Divanizia Souza conversou com a Dra. Lindsay M Morton, um dos doze palestrantes internacionais do XIII Congresso SBBN 2021. Dra. Morton é doutora em epidemiologia pela Yale University, cientista sênior do National Cancer Institute (NIH) dos Estados Unidos e coordenadora adjunta da Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics (DCEG). Suas pesquisas em Epidemiologia de Radiação (REB), têm como foco cânceres primários, efeitos carcinogênicos da radioterapia e quimioterapia, e outros fatores de risco genéticos e ambientais para segundo câncer. Recebeu o Prêmio DCEG de Mentoria do NIH por seu compromisso com o treinamento de cientistas juniores.
A Dra. Divanizia Souza é professora associada do Instituto de Física da Universidade Federal de Sergipe e Diretora de Ensino, eventos e divulgação científica da SBBN.
Profa. Divanizia: Initially, we would like to thank you for agreeing to contribute to the SBBN Congress. Certainly, your talk on “Subsequent neoplasm risk associated with rare variants in DNA damage response and clinical radiation sensitivity syndrome genes in the childhood cancer survivor study” will be of great relevance to the participants of this event. Also, we would like to congratulate you for your successful career as a researcher. In Brazil, the papers published with your participation have been read with great interest. Please could you describe your professional career? What motivated your interest in cancer epidemiology?
Dra. L. Morton: I was fortunate to learn about epidemiology from one of my undergraduate professors, who thought it was a great career option for me to pursue my interests in medicine, math, biology, and research. I was specifically motivated to study cancer because of the vast number of people who suffer from the disease worldwide. Everyone’s life has been impacted by cancer – in themselves, or a family member or friend.
Profa. Divanizia: Considering your contribution in studies on late complication of cancer treatment, could you comment on the scientific advances and challenges for the minimization of this type of complication?
Dra. L. Morton: The advances in cancer treatment in recent decades really are remarkable. While the primary focus should be on the gains that have been made, on the other hand, it is also important to be aware that some treatments do have short- or long-term complications. With more and more cancer patients living longer and better-quality lives after their diagnosis, attention has turned to how to best care for survivors in the long-term. Many different types of studies are now addressing this important issue, while also making sure to stay focused on the primary goal of high treatment efficacy.
Profa. Divanizia: The paper “The Future of Childhood Cancer Survivorship” presents information about the relevance of genetic factors in the development of second cancers in childhood cancer survivors. What is your opinion about the challenges to be faced in identifying these factors to make them less impactful to the health of these people?
Dra. L. Morton: Advances in understanding inherited susceptibility to cancer and other diseases have now enabled researchers to investigate whether some genetic factors could contribute to long-term complications in cancer survivors. Because the genetic factors may have only a small influence, researchers will need to study large groups of patients to be able to identify the genetic factors. However, even small influences on risk could impact the risk-benefit calculation for a certain treatment or could guide long-term clinical care for cancer survivors.
Profa. Divanizia: Usually, Radiation therapy is of great concern to cancer patients who need to undergo this type of therapy. From your point of view, how has epidemiology research helped in understanding the effects of this therapy on the overall health of cancer survivors?
Dra. L. Morton: Epidemiologic studies of the adverse effects of radiotherapy have had a number of different impacts. By quantifying risks of adverse effects, patients and their physicians can be more informed about risk and benefits, and about the long-term clinical care that a cancer survivor may need. These study results also have helped to drive changes in clinical practice to reduce the risk of adverse effects without sacrificing treatment efficacy. Finally, these studies have helped us understand more broadly the cancer risks associated with ionizing radiation exposure.