Dr Philippe Bedard

Intro text: 

Interview with Dr Philippe Bedard, new member of the BIG Executive Board 2018-2022

Could you please explain what motivated you to apply and serve on the BIG executive board?


BIG is critical to the future of breast cancer clinical research. There is increasing global fragmentation of clinical trials driven by pressures from spiralling drug costs and diminished national funding for cooperative groups. I believe strongly that we need to work together as international academic investigators to carry out research studies that matter for our patients. I am motivated to be part of the BIG EB team to meet these challenges and help BIG lead the next wave of practice-changing trials.


Why did you decide to pursue a career specifically in breast cancer research?

During my residency training, I was struck by how scientific discoveries about the biology of breast cancer were being translated to clinical practice. Gene expression profiling was just entering clinical trials in early stage breast cancer. I saw this type of treatment individualisation using molecular data as the future of cancer medicine.

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

Yes – we will continue to de-escalate local and systemic treatments for patients with low-risk disease. I hope that can realise the benefits seen in other cancers with immunotherapy through the development of novel strategies that boost breast cancer immunity, such as chemotherapy, targeted drugs and epigenetic modifiers, in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

You were once a fellow at BIG and worked with the organisation in the early years. How do you think BIG could foster more learning opportunities for early- career breast cancer specialists?

My fellowship at BIG was a highlight of my career. I was fortunate to be mentored by great leaders throughout the BIG network and formed lasting friendships with other fellows and BIG members. As the fellowship director for our drug development programme at Princess Margaret, I see how fellows can benefit from opportunities to develop their own research ideas.

BIG has incredible clinical data warehouses and biological data from biospecimens collected through more than two decades of practice-changing trials in breast cancer. An annual open competition for fellows to submit their projects that leverage these resources and interact with BIG researchers on an ongoing basis until completion of their projects would engage a new generation of early career investigators.

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

During a plane ride, I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This book is a memoir written by a talented young husband, father, and neurosurgeon-in-training during the last years of his life while facing terminal lung cancer. It is a beautifully written and deeply meaningful reflection on human relationships and the importance of living in the present.