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New FHS researcher: Meet Dr. Pierre-Olivier Gaudreau

New FHS researcher: Meet Dr. Pierre-Olivier Gaudreau

Dr. Gaudreau is a Senior Investigator at the Canadian Cancer Trials Group

Can you give me a quick summary of your research?

I was first trained as a hematologist and medical oncologist, and then pursued a PhD program focused on resistance mechanisms of immunotherapies designed for cancer patients. This translational clinician-scientist training featured both fundamental sciences as well as the creation of early-phase clinical trial protocols.

I recently joined the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) as a senior investigator within the Investigational New Drug (IND) program. The CCTG is a co-operative oncology group that designs and administers clinical trials in cancer therapy, supportive care, and prevention across Canada and internationally. Our specific role within the IND program is to design and conduct clinical trials testing new cancer treatments (or new treatment combinations).

My position is particularly exciting as it favours positioning at the forefront of treatment paradigm advancement for cancer patients and a multidisciplinary approach through the interaction with IND and cancer type-specific academic committees across Canada, as well as scientists from the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, I also participate in the outpatient thoracic oncology clinics as a medical oncologist at the Southeastern Ontario Cancer Centre.

What problem do you want to solve through your research?

The main objective is to improve the standard of care for cancer patients and increase survival. Within the context of IND clinical trials, we study the safety of new treatments (or new treatment combinations) as a first step. Once treatment toxicity is considered acceptable, we then study response and how efficient the new treatments actually are. The drugs that are found to be safe and effective then progress to larger studies where these new treatments are compared with the current standard of care.

What do you hope to learn from your research?

Besides studying the safety and efficacy of new drugs, we also conduct analyses based on tumor tissue and/or peripheral blood. These analyses can provide clues to answer other questions related to mechanisms associated with treatment response, mechanisms associated with treatment resistance, and which subpopulations of patients are more likely to respond based on clinical or biologic characteristics. The information gathered from these secondary analyses has the potential to provide the rationale for future trials.

Why is your research important to you?

My mother passed away from breast cancer when I was seven years old. I guess it would be hard to argue that this event did not influence the career I ultimately chose. I realized that this personal motivation is shared by countless individuals working in the field of cancer research and treatment, as many experienced similar situations. This should not come as a surprise, as cancer remains the first cause of death across the world. This fact remains true even when compared to the deaths caused by COVID-19 during the last year. Overall, my research is important because of how frequent and deadly cancer is.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My first idea was to become an architect. Later on, I became interested in music and health-related professions like psychology and medicine. I ultimately chose the latter, but I still play piano and the violin to this day.

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