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The Best of the AACR Journals Collection: Author Profiles

photo of Grainne M. O’Kane

Grainne M. O’Kane

Title & Affiliation:
Department of Medical Oncology, Trinity St James’s Cancer Institute, Dublin.
Associate Investigator, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

Most-cited Article:
GATA6 Expression Distinguishes Classical and Basal-like Subtypes in Advanced Pancreatic Cancer

Q: What is your primary area of study/research?
A: There are many reasons. I am extremely passionate about oncology and caring for patients, but I also love science and trying to solve difficult problems. I, therefore, knew that in order to improve outcomes, specifically for the patients that I treat, that a better understanding of disease biology was needed. And so, the interface between the clinic and the lab is an extremely important one for me. Most importantly, though, it has been special mentors and colleagues who have inspired a research career. I strongly believe it is critical to encourage early career investigators, and I am very thankful for those who have fostered my career to date. Connectivity with like-minded people, including mentors, is the most powerful catalyst for change.

Q: What influenced your decision to embark on a research career?
A: For cancers like pancreatic cancer and biliary tract cancer, we are seeing increasing numbers of patients, and we know that these cancers can behave badly and that treatment options are limited. But each patient is different, and we are trying to understand better biomarkers for each patient and are making slow progress. In direct contrast, we are now seeing an explosion of options for patients with advanced HCC with the reporting of several important trials. This is how dramatically the field can change and what energizes me the most.

Q; What excites you most about your research area?
A: I feel fortunate to be a part of the huge collaborative efforts in sequencing and characterization of the tumor microenvironment in PDAC. Through this work, I believe we are very close to better-designing clinical trials and unearthing novel agents. Working as part of a team of scientists and clinicians and collaborating with colleagues all over the world are critical and highlight our commitment to our patients. I truly feel very excited for the future of PDAC treatment. It may take some time, but it will come.

Q: What do you do for fun outside of work? What are your passions and hobbies?
A: These are the hardest questions. I love my work, and it makes me happy (even outside of work). I am hoping to become an avid cyclist, and let’s say I own a few bikes. I have a regular kettle-bell routine each week. Family and friends (even work ones) are very important to me, and my real hobbies are now being reborn through three very small children, who take up most of my time outside of the working day and who ask the most difficult questions! So, my travelling days are definitely a little different. Does twitter now count as a hobby?


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