29 March 2021

How patients can inspire tomorrow’s researchers

For many academic researchers, the patient sometimes feels far away. But in the end, the fate of today´s and tomorrow´s patients is a key driver of all our efforts to decode cancer.

Peter Thijssen Support Staff

Recently, we got the opportunity to address this topic with tomorrow´s researchers: biomedical sciences students from University Medical Center Utrecht. We invited patient representatives Sako Zeverijn and Inge Reus to address over 100 bachelor students. Together with fellow Oncode researchers Dieuwke Marvin, Marten Hornsveld and Peter ten Dijke they shared their experiences with the Oncode Patient Perspective Programme.

“This discussion reminded me again why we are sitting behind our laptops, at home”, was the telling comment of one of the students in the online lecture. This was probably triggered by the open way both Sako and Inge shared their personal story. How they remember the moment they were diagnosed, what helped them through during their treatment and how they take the lessons they learned with them in their role as patient representative within Oncode.

In the same panel, the three Oncode researchers shared their experiences with the Patient Perspective Programme. The students were wondering what a basic researcher actually can do with patient insights. Very concrete things actually. A researcher can learn first-hand about complaints which patients actually suffer from the most or the burden of taking a biopsy needed for research – something which makes you think twice when using these type of tissue samples. And there are additional surprising insights when talking to patients and clinicians, as Marten explained: “the fact that pancreas cancer leads to a lot of stomach pain, made me decide to look into co-culturing cells of the nervous system in my pancreatic cancer models.”

The panel spoke for more than 1,5 hours and they have changed these young minds: “I have learned today that you have to involve patients in every step of cancer research. It is very rewarding for both patients and researchers in all types of research, not only in for example clinical trials”. This is just one of many comments from the bachelor students - we couldn’t agree more!

Oncode stimulates researchers to let themselves be guided in their research by the knowledge and experiences of patients. What could be more motivating and rewarding then to get insights from people who actually reap the fruits of your innovative research? With our Patient Engagement Program we provide support within well-defined structures that enable researchers and (ex-)patients to interact with Oncode researchers. Curious about the ways we involve patients with our research? Contact Colette ten Hove to find out how you and your lab can get involved.

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