Dr Pavlina Spiliopoulou works as a clinical research fellow in Professor Iain McNeish’s lab at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre. She hopes that her work will lead to the discovery of novel epigenetic treatments that will one day reach the clinic.
Why is ovarian cancer research so important?
Despite all the recent improvements, ovarian cancer is still a very difficult disease, both for patients and doctors. The majority of major breakthroughs in oncology (and other medical fields) have been made possible following years of lab-based scientific research. Nowadays, translational work is more easily linked to clinical work and we are therefore able to move scientific advances into clinic much faster than before. This enables us to bring novel treatments to our patients faster.
The role of charities like Ovarian Cancer Action and others is indispensable in supporting ovarian cancer research; I recently participated in a half-marathon raising money for OCA and I am very grateful to friends and family for their kind donations.
Did you always want to be a scientist?
My parents are both medical doctors and admittedly had terrible childcare arrangements when I was young, so I very frequently ended up with them in their place of work! So, I knew I wanted to be a medical doctor very early on. However, it was not until I started training as a Medical Oncologist that I realised my love for science and how important science is for oncology in general. At that point and whilst training as an oncologist, I joined Professor Iain McNeish’s lab as a research fellow and I started working towards the completion of a PhD degree.
What is your career highlight to date?
Being awarded a fellowship to carry out research has personally been the best moment of my career so far. This is because it gave me a completely different perspective as a doctor, it consolidated my passion for oncology and taught me patience!
What keeps you motivated on a hard day?
I think both for clinical and lab days, the motivation always comes from patients. Disappointments in science and clinic are not infrequent but knowing that my work might contribute in even the slightest way to changing someone’s life for the better always helps me keep going.
Who inspires you?
As a medical oncologist who wants to be able to link science to clinical work, I draw a lot of inspiration from my supervisor, Professor Iain McNeish, who is a clinician scientist.
What do you dream of achieving?
I believe changes in the field of oncology and improvements in patients’ outcomes come through collective work and collaboration. If I can be an active member of the research and clinical community that works towards finding better treatments for our patients, then that would be a personal achievement for me.