Memorial Sloan Kettering
During his internship at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Department of Radiation Oncology, Simon Dadoun was involved in clinical research for prostrate cancer.
Under the guidance of radiation oncologist Dr. Marisa Kollmeier, his mentor, Dadoun assisted in contributing to a database of past and present prostate cancer patients. The aim of the database is to track patterns and trends of biochemical and radiographic reoccurrences, so Dadoun tracked prostate cancer recurrence rates in individuals who already had radical prostatectomies as well as salvage radiation therapy (SRT), taking into account location of recurrence, size of recurrence, amount of time between treatment and recurrence, and other factors. “The data will be used in evaluating and perhaps change current approaches to treating prostate cancer,” he says.
“What clinical research does is take patient outcomes from all these treatments, and tries to predict trends. It’s a lot less glamorous than machinery and microscopes, but simultaneously has a lot more immediate potential. Because when the doctor sees that every patient who had x treatment had a recurrence, they’re going to stop treatment. And the opposite is also true – when they see that everyone who had y treatment has been in remission for a relatively long time, it’s good news."
The project required a lot of analysis and a meticulous attention to detail, so at first, the work was painstakingly slow. “It was hours of sitting in front of the computer and reading patient files and organizing them into a database. I had to create a timeline for each patient, evaluating various scans, patients’ assessments, and other data.”
But after three months of reading hundreds of patient files and learning which treatments were effective and which ones weren’t, Dadoun found that the process taught him more than he expected. “I got a really good grasp of the different treatments for prostate cancer patients and learned a lot about the treatment process and the standard of care. I learned about the different types of therapies and in what context they are best administered.”
In addition to his research duties, Dadoun also shadowed Dr. Kollmeier and her medical resident, Dr. Aaron Wild. One of his favorite experiences was sitting in on patient consultations and evaluations, which is where he learned that while there are many treatment options and combinations when it comes to prostate cancer care, often only one plan best suits the patient.
“Dr. Kollmeier and her team would regularly congregate and discuss all of the pros and cons of different treatments, identifying the plan that would have the least impact on the patient's quality of life. The physicians would ask ‘Is the cancer local, or is it metastatic? Is it the first occurrence, or the second time around? Did the patient already undergo brachytherapy or external radiation?’ It was incredible hearing the oncologists brainstorm like this, and I saw first-hand the common ambiguities and difficult decisions physicians often face when deciding how to tailor each treatment plan for each of their patients.”
In addition, Simon observed many of the invasive procedures pertaining to the treatment of genitourinary cancer, from brachytherapy to radical hysterectomies. Because Sloan Kettering is a teaching hospital, Simon enjoyed being able to ask all the questions he wanted. “It’s a very interactive environment. While the surgeons are suturing and cauterizing tissue, they are giving you a rundown of what exactly is going on.”
Simon is currently in the process of applying to medical school. He hopes to pursue a career in oncology.