Understanding cancer as a jigsaw puzzle: Charlotte Christine KopitzYou might ask yourself the question "how does one end up in pharma research?" When I was growing up I wanted to become a professional jigsaw puzzle player as I was fascinated with the idea of solving problems. I soon understood that natural sciences make up the counterpart to jigsaws in the professional world. While studying biology, which I loved, I realized I wanted to focus on applied sciences to really achieve a benefit from my work. That is how I discovered working in basic medical research, and over time ended up in cancer research.

In science, every hypothesis you refute leads to a new hypothesis – and consequently, the puzzle grows. In the same way, the understanding of the basic research of a respective disease grows while doing research. Since I wanted to become directly involved in the development of medicines I started working in pharma research.

Currently, my main focus is on the application of small molecules in order to discover new medical innovations to treat cancer. The aim is, to take away crucial puzzle pieces from the tumor that the disease needs in order to survive.

Each tumor disease - like skin, breast, or prostate cancer - is its own jigsaw puzzle. And even within the same disease, there are additional small but essential differences from patient to patient – leading to a better or worse response to a given treatment. Therefore, I am currently contributing to the development of novel therapies which aim for attacking exactly these unique features of a given tumor.

This “personalized” medicine will hopefully significantly increase the chance of a patient to benefit from “his” medication without the severe side effects of conventional chemotherapeutics.

Once a colleague asked me, can you in all likelihood assume that five patients are still alive today because they were treated with a drug, which you helped to develop? That moment I realized I was doing the right thing. Every day I look forward to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle in order to help patients.