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New Scientific Advisor on board!

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Last August the BIG Headquarters hailed the arrival of Dr Nawale Hajjaji, coming on board as Scientific Advisor. Let us introduce you to Dr Nawale Hajjaji, passionate medical oncologist coming from France, who is very enthusiastic about joining the BIG network and contributing to advance breast cancer research.

Could you please tell us about yourself? What is, in a few words, your education and career path? 

I completed my medical degree (internal medicine), specialization in medical oncology, and PhD degree (Inserm) in France. There, I had the opportunity to combine my clinical practice dedicated to patients with breast or gynecologic cancers with research. 
A 3-year experience in the lab was an exciting immersion into the scientific world. Applying a scientific approach and methodology to understand the complexity of the cancer cells was a great experience. The scientific discoveries offer new therapeutic opportunities and great hope to the patients. However, transfer of these discoveries to clinical practice remains a challenge. Since my background gives me a transversal vision, I passionately involved myself in clinical research, and in translational research.

 

What did you study?


I investigated breast cancer resistance to chemotherapy. Specifically, my work focused on the relationship between the microenvironment and tumors’ response to anticancer therapy. The aim was to target the tumor microenvironment to increase tumors’ sensitivity to chemotherapy. The tumor component at the center of my work was tumor lipids, which are essential to cancer cell growth, proliferation, and to several metabolic processes. While most research focuses on the genomic material of cancer cells or their protein profile, only a few studies have investigated the potential of lipids as a therapeutic target. What is of particular interest in this area of research is the connection between tumor lipids and the lipid content of the diet. If this field of research develops, it will be possible to determine which components of the diet or which dietary styles are harmful of beneficial, and accurately advise cancer patients on whether they should change their eating habits and how. With the recognition of the poor prognostic value of overweight and obesity, this topic is clearly important.

 

What does it mean to you to work for BIG and what do you want to achieve at BIG?


The high quality research, the principles, the patient connection through patient group advocates make BIG an inspiring research group. Working in collaboration with experts in the field of breast cancer in an environment that conciliates cutting edge research and high ethical standards is a wonderful opportunity.
Because BIG is a central node in the breast cancer research network, BIG is in a unique position to conduct practice-changing studies, particularly in the area of new drug developments. This is also why BIG is so attractive to me.
Recently, many studies targeting the immune system in the tumor microenvironment showed very encouraging results. Several elegant and attractive approaches aiming at strengthening the patient’s immune system to fight cancer are ongoing. There is a need to validate and define the appropriate conditions of use of immunotherapy in breast cancer patients. I am eager to participate to BIG projects in this area of research.

 

What do you do in your free time?


My private passions are literature, music, and hiking.