Dr Boon Chua
Interview with Dr Boon Chua, 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)?
The rationale underpinning the vision and mission of BIG to accelerate translation of science to cure through global, multidisciplinary collaboration in breast cancer research makes complete sense to me. The global reach of BIG and the power of team science are critical to realising our vision — no one succeeds as an island.
The vision of BIG aligns with my professional commitment to provide every patient with the best possible care, irrespective of geography and socio-economic status. It is my privilege to serve the BIG community and, above all, our patients.
What particular expertise do you think you can bring to the BIG EB?
I will contribute to the scientific agenda of the BIG EB not purely as a radiation oncologist but more broadly, with a clear recognition of the importance of genuine multidisciplinary collaboration.
My knowledge and experience in healthcare leadership would enable me to contribute methodically and effectively to the strategic positioning, organisational design, communication strategies, performance management and growth of BIG as a complex and dynamic global organisation.
Please cite three elements that you find critical for the continued success of BIG in the next decade?
- A clear strategic position in the evolving and competitive landscape of cancer research
- Effective engagement of our members including early career researchers to cultivate an organisational culture and scientific vibrancy necessary for collective successes
- A sound governance, operational and business model that is aligned with our strategic directions.
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?
There have been substantial investments from the pharmaceutical industry and funding bodies in clinical evaluation of precision oncology and precision diagnostics. Many institutions are pursuing independent research in these fields. However, research of limited scale will likely generate limited successes in part due to limited access to targeted agents and diagnostics and tumour specimens for analysis. This is enormously costly, and perhaps wasteful. With its global network, BIG is strongly positioned to evaluate precision oncology in scientifically rigorous collaborative programmes, ensure independence from the industry, and enable more effective and efficient translation of research into clinical practice to optimally serve the needs of our patients.
Another major challenge is the viability of non-industry sponsored academic research that addresses questions of significance and relevance to the patients and healthcare systems. BIG can provide the global leadership and collaborative framework to collectively optimise the use of limited resources and enable its successful conduct.
Do you think we will see practice-changing results from breast cancer research in the next decade? Which ones?
I am cautiously optimistic that we will, particularly through scientifically rigorous academic research that focuses on patient outcomes and adds value to the healthcare systems. This is typically amongst the most challenging research to conduct in many parts of the world due to funding and resource constraints. However, it is also amongst the most meaningful research to the diverse stakeholders in healthcare, none more so than the patients.
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?
I think the key is to set clear expectations and build trust early on what I can deliver through open and transparent communication and actions. I am also striving to be disciplined enough to make time regularly to review my expanding professional roles, reflect on my priorities, and rationalise my commitments.
We would like to know more about you. What do you do in your free time, what are your hobbies?
Research is my hobby, curiosity is hard-wired into my DNA.