Dr Shinji Ohno
Interview with Dr Shinji Ohno, 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)?
I believe that the mission of the breast cancer clinical trial groups is to contribute to conquering breast cancer, as well as making state of the art treatment strategies and suitable care for each individual patient. As the incidence of breast cancer is dramatically increasing in Asian countries, the policy of the Breast International Group (BIG) is quite important also for Asia, i.e., that global collaboration is crucial to make significant advances in breast cancer research, reduce unnecessary duplication of effort, share data and enable collaboration of scientists across borders, contribute to the faster development of better treatments, and increase the likelihood of cures for patients. The Japan Breast Cancer Research Group (JBCRG) joined BIG in 2006 as one of the representative clinical trial groups. As the representative director of JBCRG, I hope to contribute to the progress of BIG and enhance the collaboration between BIG and the Asian groups, in particular.
What particular expertise do you think you can bring to the BIG EB?
Currently in an era of globalisation, Asian professionals have made efforts to collaborate through international clinical trials and research. Asian breast oncologists and researchers gather frequently and discuss how to contribute to strengthening bonding and cooperation among Asian countries, and sharing research expertise, delivering evidence-based cancer care to the patients. I will contribute to make the network in Asia and the collaboration between the Asian groups and BIG.
Please cite three elements that you find critical for the continued success of BIG in the next decade?
Personally, time and money are the most important elements. We have to support young investigators to grow to act globally and consider good ideas to resolve the clinical questions and unmet needs.
Optimal design is necessary for the completion of clinical trials, and we have to enroll patients as quickly as possible. Innovative clinical trial designs are needed to demonstrate a drug's efficacy and validate biomarkers of response in a short period of time.
While continuing to be strict about safeguarding our independence from pharmaceutical companies, we have to get enough funding to manage clinical trials and to make translational research happen.
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?
In order to conquer breast cancer, we have to prevent breast cancer occurence and cure patients affected by the disease. In order to treat patients optimally, good biomarkers to predict the effect of drugs are essential. Translational research associated with our clinical trials should clarify the significance of specific biomarkers, as well as help us define new clinical strategies to improve patient survival. BIG plays an important role as the biggest worldwide research network working to conquer breast cancer.
Do you think we will see practice-changing results from breast cancer research in the next decade? Which ones?
Precision medicine will be achieved by basic research, translational research and clinical trials. As well as producing new drugs, de-escalating breast cancer therapies will be improved in early breast cancer without sacrificing outcomes.
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 have lots of collaborators and colleagues at both a national and international level. As representative director of JBCRG, I like to encourage clinical researchers as well as other medical staff to do all they can to conquer breast cancer.
We would like to know more about you. What do you do in your free time, what are your hobbies?
I am interested in pink ribbon activities to improve awareness of breast cancer and to support patients in society. I enjoy being the representative director of NPO* for those activities. My hobby is walking and jogging in Japan and foreign countries.
Have you read a good book lately that you would recommend?
“Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing And Succeeding Under Any Conditions”, written by John Kotter, is a simple fable about doing well in an ever-changing world. The story is based on pioneering work that shows how Eight Steps produce needed change in any sort of group. We can learn what to do when facing a difficult problem.
* Japan NPO Center (JNPOC) acts as a national infrastructure organisation for the growing nonprofit sector in Japan. http://www.jnpoc.ne.jp/