Dr Marco Colleoni

Intro text: 

Interview with Dr Marco Colleoni, new member of the BIG Executive Board 2017-2021


Could you please explain what motivated you to apply and serve on the BIG Executive Board (EB)?

BIG represents the best opportunity to preserve the academic freedom of clinical investigations focusing on new therapies for patients with breast cancer. My experience as Chair of the Executive of the Scientific Committee of the International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG), as well as the opportunities I have had to coordinate research activities across different countries, have persuaded me that global collaboration is crucial to make progress. Despite the special challenges of cross cultural collaboration, the goal to improve patient care is imperative. Promoting BIG’s Principles of Research Conduct is an indispensable component of this work. I’m convinced that the membership on the BIG Executive Board will give me the chance to contribute optimally to BIG’s mission.


What particular expertise do you think you can bring to the BIG EB? 

Serving as Chair for several international collaborative studies, I have the experience of negotiating with pharmaceutical partners as well as fostering cooperation among group members to provide a united front in seeking pharmaceutical industry partnerships. I have also been actively involved in the development of innovative clinical trials of promising treatments, with emphasis on translational research that will lead to more personalised patient care. I will use these experiences as well as my management knowledge to contribute to the deliberations of the Executive Board.


Please cite three elements that you find critical for the continued success of BIG in the next decade?

Caring for women and men with breast cancer, scientific integrity and independent thinking, respect for the various cultural and ethnic environments in which we work.


What are the biggest challenges currently faced by all stakeholders of the breast cancer research area? How do you think BIG can play a significant role in this context?

BIG played a significant role in advancing science and breast cancer patient care by addressing questions important to patients and reflecting the spirit that guides a worldwide collaboration with the goal of serving women and men with breast cancer. Several large phase III trials have matured in recent years, leading to numerous clinical trial reports with a major impact on the care of patients with breast cancer. However, at the same time, major collaborative groups have been experiencing difficulties to initiate new large clinical trials. The evolution of research on new drugs in the field of breast cancer has been focused on selection of niches rather than large groups of patients. The current reality is that the majority of the patients from member institutions of large cooperative groups are typically treated outside clinical trials. With large phase III trials now quite rare, we have to adapt and shift our efforts towards developing and launching smaller trials with selected groups of patients. The programme for the next future is looking to prioritise genomics and biomarker-based research, improve the design, review, and operation of translational research, reduce time from initial study concept to final approval, and increase partnership with Industries. BIG as an organisation is in the best position to translate these concepts into reality.


Do you think we will see practice-changing results from breast cancer research in the next decade? Which ones?

I would expect new important information about endocrine therapies, both in premenopausal and postmenopausal patients. In particular, I think we will identify new agents able to induce adequate ovarian function suppression as well as new combinations of endocrine and targeted agents.


As a member of the BIG EB, you play a key role in shaping international breast cancer research. You also have heavy responsibilities at your own institute, and you contribute to the advancement of research at your county level. How do you balance your national with your international activities?

This is a major challenge. I always tried to balance my responsibilities to patients and research together with taking time to follow younger investigators. Moreover, my activity as the Director of the Division of Medical Senology at the European Institute of Oncology (IEO) requires regular interdisciplinary meetings, including a weekly board where we discuss 70-80 cases of adjuvant/neoadjuvant therapies. This level of teamwork can be quite demanding, but I will do my best to manage it as I have done in the past, serving both patients and academia.


We would like to know more about you. What do you do in your free time, what are your hobbies?

I don’t have so much time for hobbies but I try to preserve time for regular physical activity such as running. Moreover, I really enjoy travelling, reading and following my preferred soccer team. 


Have you read a good book lately that you would recommend?

I just finished an excellent book by Wilbur Smith called “The last Pharaoh” that brings you to Ancient Egypt. This is a very captivating novel that transports you outside the everyday routine into extraordinary times.