Dr. Rahima Jamal
A PROGNOSIS OF HOPE FOR MELANOMA
Hemato-oncologist and Director, Unit for Innovative Therapies
University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM)
Dr. Rahima Jamal’s family lived in Europe and Africa before immigrating to Quebec when she was 12 years old. And she can’t imagine moving away. “Montreal is the best city to live in,” says the hemato-oncologist and director of the Unit for Innovative Therapies at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM).
In 2010, she saw with her own eyes the effectiveness of experimental treatment in melanoma patients. It was a pivotal moment in her life. During her second postdoctoral fellowship at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, the young clinician followed a group of patients who received Roche’s experimental drug, vemurafenib (Zelboraf). Their prognosis was not good, but the B-Raf inhibitor was effective and, within two weeks, the tumour masses melted away like snow in the sun.
“It was incredible,” recalls Dr. Jamal, who is still marked by the event. “Seeing these patients come back to life has literally contaminated me,” she says. “That’s when I knew that clinical studies were made for me.”
Dr. Jamal, who had once considered becoming a journalist before turning to medicine, had found her true calling. The clinical investigator continues her battle against melanoma. In recent years, she initiated two studies that combined chemotherapy with immunotherapy. And thanks in part to her work, we are now better equipped to fight this type of cancer.
“10 years ago, the median survival of patients was 6 months. Today, it exceeds 20 months! This is a major difference, and it shows above all the importance of clinical studies for patients, from phase I to treatment approval.”
Appointed head of the CRCHUM’s Unit for Innovative Therapies in September 2018, Dr. Jamal is working to bring the most promising experimental cancer treatments to patients. “We also have all the human and technical expertise to conduct clinical studies in neurology and possibly in other areas such as cardiology or infectious diseases,” she adds.
“My dream is to relive my 2010 experience again and again, with a new therapy that will change the course of my patients’ illnesses… To give them a second chance. That’s why we do clinical research!”