I strongly believe that you have to treat the person as a whole and not just the disease.
I am Heloisa Soares. I am a GI medical oncologist and neuroendocrine tumor expert. Essentially, I see patients with stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, and neuroendocrine tumors in any places of their body.
What is your research focus at Huntsman Cancer Institute?
I wear two hats in terms of research. I have clinical research, meaning conducting clinical trials so if someone comes to the clinic and has a disease that we have a study for, I will be able to offer it to the patient.
The other thing I'm doing in the lab with Dr. Beswick is developing a neuroendocrine translational program, so using the cell line models and the mice models to develop new strategies for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors that hopefully —when we're ready—we will be able to translate to the clinic and offer it to patients.
Why did you choose to become an oncologist?
I grew up in Brazil, so I had my school up to high school in Brazil. I fell in love with biology when I was in middle school and later in high school I fell in love with the human body. On top of that, my dad has a very rare type of cancer and that motivated my interest in oncology.
I also had a lot of family experience dealing with cancer and seeing what my family members went through, I decided that I want to be the doctor who will be there for my patients from the beginning to the end.
What is something your patients or colleagues might not know about you?
That I picked my husband at a Thai restaurant. He was having lunch by himself and I thought, "Why is this good-looking guy having lunch by himself?" So, I pick up my business card. I was a research assistant at the time in Florida. I wrote down: "If you ever need company for lunch just give me a call." I dropped it on his table without talking to him and left the restaurant with my colleagues from work.
Then, two days later he called and said, "Hi. I'm David from the card," and then I was like, "Oh, you don't think I'm crazy?" he's like, "No, I don't know yet. Are you?" and I was like, "I hope not". So, ten years later here we are with two kids.
What are you passionate about?
In medicine, I'm certainly passionate about bringing good clinical trials to patients but I am passionate about patient advocacy. I think that's super important. I had the opportunity to advocate for patients in Capitol Hill and that's something that really brings me joy. It feels like I'm contributing an extra layer to patient care.
Engaging in patient education, that's something I absolutely adore doing. I strongly believe that you have to treat the person as a whole and not just the disease. The disease is just one aspect.
What was it like growing up in Brazil?
It was fun. Brazilians are very close to the family. Typically everybody lives in the same
town which is a little bit different here, sometimes families are in many different cities so it was good. We had family meetings at my grandma's house every Sunday night with tons of cousins, aunts, and it was super fun to grow with that sense of family.
Should people with cancer use social media to learn about cancer?
Social media has been growing in terms of opportunities for patient education. I encourage patients to engage in social media, in a nice way — following societies that are good. Then, if they want to engage in supportive groups on social media just to be a little bit more careful in terms of what type of information is shared because not every single patient is the same. A treatment that is right for someone might not be right for someone else.
Thank you very much for listening.
Muito obrigada por ouvir. Até breve.