Meghan Flanagan ’99
Surgical oncologist and breast cancer specialist, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center
Assistant professor of surgery, University of Washington
What role does innovation play in cancer care?
Innovation is taking a problem and approaching it from a different angle. For breast cancer treatment, we are thinking about ways where we can change the order of what we do, like doing radiation before surgery. In this new area of precision medicine, there’s a ton of innovation by taking what we know on the macro level and applying it to each patient. Each tumor is fundamentally different and specific to that person. So we can consider what is very specific about your tumor and treat you differently.
What is the future of cancer research?
In the last five or 10 years we’ve had the capability to do whole genome sequencing. We’re at an exciting future and crossroads where our technology is to the point where we can do individualized medicine. There’s a lot of work going on currently to address unknown problems. For example, statistics show certain demographics have worse outcomes. There are lots of studies looking at why. It doesn’t appear to be only socioeconomic, demographic or cultural. Even if patients access care at the same time, something about the tumors might be different. There’s so much room in medicine for understanding where the patient is psychologically, socioeconomically or culturally and figuring out how to combine that with a tailored treatment so patients get the best possible outcome.