Meet a Researcher: Q&A with Dr Marion Le Grand

15 Feb 2018

Dr Marion Le Grand is a Research Officer in our Tumour Biology and Targeting Program. She tells us what she does, and why she came all the way from France to do it.

Q: Can you tell us about your work?

A: My work focuses on neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumour in early childhood, which is usually diagnosed at just one to two years old. My research can be divided into two parts. First there’s the pharmacological part, where I’m trying to find better treatments. I test different combinations of drugs in a range of neuroblastoma models, looking for the combination that’s most effective.

I originally trained as a pharmacist, so I love this part of my job. I used to dream about finding the best possible drug combination for treating kids with cancer, without toxic side-effects, and now I’ve got a chance to do that.

The second part of my research is the biological part. I’m trying to understand how cancer cells work. I love this part of my job too, don’t get me wrong. It’s exciting because a cancer cell is such a complex system, which becomes even more complex when you look at a cancer cell in its environment.

I hope one day to find the “Achilles heel” of cancer cells and use this to develop new treatments. Because cancer cells are so adaptable I think it could be very difficult to find a cure to eradicate every single one. But I believe that one day we’ll find treatments that can be used to ‘manage’ cancer, like we manage other diseases.

Marion (left) and a colleague in the lab

Q: What brought you to our labs?

A: That’s a long story. While I was studying Pharmacy I worked for a year in a hospital, which included six months in the Oncology Department. My dedication to research was born from that. I met a father, mother, brother, friend, who had just suffered the loss of a child, a parent, a friend. From a personal point of view, I was deeply affected by their distress and by the helplessness of the medical team.

After that I took a slight change in direction as I started working on cancer research. I did a three-year PhD in France and quickly understood that I would need to speak English if I wanted to keep working in research. I was lucky enough to get funding to work on my project in the Tumour Biology and Targeting Program. I chose Sydney for 4 reasons: 1) people speak English here, 2) I wanted to work on childhood cancer, 3) the weather’s great and 4) it was exciting to go to the other side of the world.

Q: What do you hope to achieve for kids with cancer?

A: Let’s jump to the future! I’m in a classroom with a lot of kids. One is asking me, “Have you been a photographer all your life?” “No,” I reply, “before this I was a cancer researcher. Because many years ago, all patients diagnosed with cancer didn’t survive like they do today. Back then, a lot of researchers were working to find a cure. Luckily we can now cure every patient.” My wish is that this story comes true.

Q: Can you tell us something about you that not many people know?

A: I have a small notebook where I’m writing all the things I’d love to do. It can be very silly things or my greatest dream. It helps me realise, every time I open it, how lucky I am for already doing so many things, and how lucky I will be if I get to do all the things I’ve written!!!


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Top image: Marion enjoys the weather