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A Q&A with oncologist Pamela Goodwin

Like many oncologists, Dr. Pamela Goodwin first developed an interest in oncology following seeing a family member affected by cancer. Today, she leads JNCI Cancer Spectrum as Editor-in-Chief, publishing cancer research in an array of topics. Recently, we interviewed Dr. Goodwin, who shared her thoughts about the journal, the field of oncology, and her visions for the future.

How did you get involved in the launch of the new open access journal, JNCI Cancer Spectrum?

The JNCI Publisher and Editorial group reached out to me during the summer of 2016 about this new journal – I had been an Associate Editor at Journal of Clinical Oncology for almost ten years and was looking for new challenges. The opportunity to launch a new journal was exciting, and the close association with the well-established, respected, and impactful JNCI was a major draw. We launched in late spring of this year and will be publishing our first issue in September – it has been a whirlwind experience that I have enjoyed enormously.

What makes JNCI CS unique?

We will use an Online, Open Access publication model, allowing the scientific community immediate and unrestricted access to our manuscripts. Although we will publish papers that cover a range of research similar to that published in JNCI, we are encouraging submission of hypothesis generating and hypothesis confirming papers, as well as expert opinion reviews, meta-analyses, and critical appraisals. We will publish scholarly discussions of research hypotheses and research direction, and hope to become a home for commentaries of this type. Over time I anticipate we will develop our own “brand” that is complementary to JNCI.

How do you decide which articles should be published in JNCI Cancer Spectrum?

The major criteria will be quality and potential for scientific impact. We see JNCI CS as evolving into a high impact journal that will complement JNCI, our sister journal that currently receives more high quality manuscripts than it can publish. Our team of Associate and Consulting Editors, along with JNCI/JNCI CS staff, will carefully evaluate submitted manuscripts for scientific rigor and interest; we will engage peer reviewers (many of whom will be members of the Editorial Board we share with JNCI) to evaluate manuscripts that pass initial editorial screening to ensure that the manuscripts we publish are of high quality and are of interest to the cancer community.

Dr. Pamela Goodwin. Used with permission.

How did you become involved in the field of journal editing?

I have been a medical oncologist and clinical cancer researcher for almost 30 years, trained in clinical epidemiology with a focus on the role of lifestyle, notably obesity, in breast cancer. After publishing dozens of papers, and reviewing many more, I had developed a great appreciation of the peer review process, but felt I could make an important contribution to enhance methodologic rigor in the area of clinical cancer research by becoming involved in editing. Clinical trials methodology was already strong, but improvements were needed in other areas. I also wanted to elevate the status of lifestyle, survivorship, and quality of life research in the cancer publishing world. To that end, I joined JCO as an Associate Editor and led several Special Issues of JCO and published multiple editorials focusing on research direction and quality. With my team of Associate Editors, I intend to continue these initiatives at JNCI CS.

How can I get involved in JNCI Cancer Spectrum and in journal editing in general?

I believe that good editors have a broad understanding of cancer research in their field, a strong track record of conducting impactful research, and considerable experience in peer-review, particularly peer review of scientific manuscripts. Thus, a successful independent research career and a demonstrated willingness to review papers in a thorough, balanced, and timely fashion would be key to greater involvement in JNCI CS. We regularly update our reviewer database to include researchers who express interest in reviewing for us, and will invite outstanding reviewers to join our Editorial Board to become more involved in the Editorial process. Individuals who are interested in becoming involved at JNCI CS should contact me.

What led you to the field of oncology? Why did you choose to focus on breast cancer?

Like many oncologists, my initial interest in oncology arose from seeing cancer affect a family member. Once I began my training I was struck by the adverse impact that cancer, especially breast cancer, had on my patients and their families. Before organized screening began in the 1990s, most breast cancer patients presented with node positive disease and available adjuvant therapies had limited effectiveness – as a result, many of my patients died of their breast cancer. It has been wonderful to see the tremendous improvements in outcomes over the past 25 years – in Canada, where I practice, population based deaths from breast cancer are at their lowest levels since data began to be collected 60-70 years ago. My own research has focused on the relationship between a woman and her breast cancer – studying factors such as obesity and vitamin D, examining their associations with breast cancer outcomes as well as delving into the underlying biology of host effects in breast cancer. This field has “come of age” during the past decade, with ongoing randomized trials targeting lifestyle and biologic intermediaries of the breast cancer-host factor relationship.

What developments would you like to see in your field of study?

We have made great strides in cancer research, but there is much more to do. Because cancer is not a single disease there will be no single solution. We need to continue to work on multiple agendas to understand cancer causes, biology, prevention, and treatment. We need to embrace advances in understanding the biologic basis of cancer, and to continue to translate that understanding into effective treatment. Much of the clinical research will involve large scale trials that will be conducted by co-operative groups and pharmaceutical companies – but we also need to be open to novel ideas and approaches, some of which will come from unexpected sources. Prevention should continue to be a major focus; it will require rigorous and often costly research. One major challenge in some cancers, including breast, is de-escalation of current treatment so that treatment is given only to those who will benefit from it. Another is the need to match targeted treatments to biologically defined subsets of cancers, leading to challenges in clinic trial accrual when these subsets are small, and to economic challenges when effective, but expensive, treatments are identified. Finally, for many patients who live with cancer, and the sequelae of cancer treatment, optimization of quality of life will be needed to reduce overall disease burden.

Featured image credit: Workspace by Sabri Tuzcu. Public domain via Unsplash

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