Sanofi scientist Elisabeth de Kermadec in Cambridge, MA
Breakthroughs in breast cancer R&D depend on deep knowledge of the disease, new approaches to drug design and, above all, listening. We asked Sanofi scientist Elisabeth de Kermadec to explain.
Before joining Sanofi's oncology R&D team in 2019, I worked as a doctor treating people with breast cancer. I was often struck by how patients with metastatic disease would accept treatments with severe side effects, and how difficult it could be to prepare them for the realities they would face. When cancer spreads to other parts of the body, there is a strong impulse to underestimate the importance of quality of life when considering treatment options. This can have profound effects on the patient and make it harder for their physician to advise on the best course.
I am passionate about improving treatment options for people with metastatic breast cancer. I've learned firsthand what a huge difference it could make for each patient, and for the people who are by their side through diagnosis and treatment. Drugs that are easier on patients would allow people with metastatic breast cancer to be more present, their care team to focus on emotional and social support, and their doctor to help them find a balance between treatment and quality of life.2
Listening is key
When I joined Sanofi as a clinical director in 2019, I was at first overwhelmed by the scale of its oncology program. I had this sense of a magical machine, with a vast array of expertise and technology, and so many people focused on finding new solutions for patients. New approaches to drug design, like synthetic biology and antibody–drug conjugates, are helping our teams develop medicines to combat drug resistance or minimize damage to healthy tissues.
But as a clinical director at Sanofi, I could see that listening is the real engine behind responsive innovation. It’s the crucial first step toward meaningful healthcare solutions that address the real needs of patients, including quality of life.
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"Listening" can mean a lot of things at Sanofi, from one-on-one discussions to analyzing real-world data. For me, what stands out is how panels of patients are consulted when the clinical trial is being designed. Listening to understand their daily lives, and their first-hand experiences with research, allows us to focus on what they need most and include people who are representative of the wider patient community.