When I started to work at the EORTC Headquarters Quality of Life Department in March 2008, I thought that it would be nice to spend one year gaining experience and studying cancer from another point of view. Three years (and a couple of rainy days) later, I’m still in Belgium and I can confirm I made the right choice.
My fellowship has been renewed twice and during these three years I have learnt a lot, had wonderful experiences, met very nice people, gained new knowledge and hopefully shared the knowledge I already had.
A brief overview of some moments I like to remember.
The first Patient Reported Outcomes and Behavioural Evidence (PROBE) meeting (Brussels, April 2008), where possible projects were proposed and discussed. It was my first international meeting, with people whose names I had only read on papers, in a language I hadn’t really mastered… do I need to add how nervous I was? Luckily, all the PROBE members turned out to be friendly and willing to help, and I went home full of enthusiasm and ready to start.
My first project was a Symptom Cluster Analysis. My experience was mainly epidemiological and I needed a wide background about multivariate data analysis techniques. I had the chance to broad my knowledge by attending a course on multivariate data analysis techniques (Montréal, June 2008) and by spending some time at the Symptom Research Department of the MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, April 2009). These wonderful experiences allowed me to present my poster abstract at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Orlando, May 2009.
Whilst gaining more knowledge I had the opportunity to work on new projects: in October 2009 I presented, at the International Society for Quality of Life Research (ISOQOL) annual conference, a study where the possibility of creating a Symptom Index for Cancer Patients was discussed (New Orleans, October 2009). For this study I was selected for the Young Investigator Award.
In November 2009 I had the chance to participate, as faculty, in the first EORTC Course on Quality of Life, Symptom Research and Patient Reported Outcomes in Cancer Clinical Trials (Brussels, November 2009). It was a wonderful, illuminating experience, where all the participants had the possibility to broad their knowledge and exchange their ideas. One of the e-mails we received afterwards said simply, “Congratulations, it is such an inspiration”. It really was, and I feel lucky I took part in such an event. The second course will take place in September 2011, and I encourage investigators to participate.
2010 was also full of surprises and experiences: a mini-symposium at the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) World Cancer Congress (Shenzhen, August 2010); the chance to share working experience and nice evenings with Quality of Life Group (QLG) colleagues at the QLG meeting (Leipzig, September 2010); the presentation of a new study, a Cluster Analysis on Prostate Cancer Patients, at the ISOQOL annual conference (London, October 2010); and a challenging issue panel discussion on Genetics and Quality of Life at the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) meeting (Prague, November 2010).
I have made so many valuable scientific contacts during this period that if I started naming them one by one, I would probably never end. So I would just like to sincerely thank everybody with whom I have had the chance to work, exchange ideas, or simply sharing a glass of wine during these three years. I hope, and I’m confident, that our collaboration will not end here!
N.B.: Francesca will rejoin the EORTC as a member of the EORTC Headquarters staff in May 2011 as a specialist in the Quality of Life Department.