True to its commitment to raise awareness about cancer research, Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) participated at the 13th Congress of the Spanish Group of Cancer Patients (GEPAC), which was held on 16, 17 and 18 November in Madrid’s Architecture College, with the title ‘Great stories start here…’.
Throughout the weekend, several volunteer researchers met with patients, relatives and other attendees, answering their questions, listening to them and providing information about the Centre and the latest researches around this disease. This is an activity that connects the two ends of an extensive chain that starts with researchers and ends with patients, and it involves family doctors, oncologists, patients’ relatives, associations and pharmaceutical companies.
Made up of 87 organisations of cancer patients, every year GEPAC organises this Congress, which has been declared to be of interest in relation to healthcare by the Spanish Ministry of Health and the Health Department of Madrid. Its goal is to offer patients, families and professionals access to the latest resources and information around new scientific developments. The 2017 edition was endorsed by 56 scientific societies and involved 125 health professionals. It was attended by more than 2,300 people.
Here is some of the feedback given by volunteers who participated in the Congress with the aim of being closer to patients:
“I always try to get involved in this kind of initiatives that provide visibility and bring science to society, although I have to say that beforehand I thought coming into direct contact with patients would be a bit of an emotional challenge”, explains Cristina Tejedo, from the Melanoma Group. “It was very rewarding seeing the smiles and gratitude of those battling cancer. Participating in this initiative as a volunteer drives me to continue fighting against our common foe, cancer”.
Ana Cuadrado, from the Chromosome Dynamics Group, adds: “I believe that researchers have a duty to transmit the effort we make every day to try and decipher the causes of the different cancer types. Personally, as a scientist, this experience has allowed me to value the importance of our work to society, work that, because of its complex nature and the extensive timeframes it requires, runs the risk of being limited solely to dissemination in scientific forums. Contact with patients allows us to understand and appreciate our effort; it is extremely rewarding and stimulating, as well as necessary to maintain the enthusiasm, quality and rigour it requires”.
“It is a very enriching personal experience; for me it is a way of keeping my feet on the ground”, says Sonia Hernández, from the CNIO-Lilly Cell Signalling Therapies Section. “From time to time, we have to get out of the lab. These initiatives are the best place to listen, empathise with patients, ‘recharge your batteries’ and remember that further research is worth it. It is also an opportunity to speak with doctors, who need our help and knowledge, as we do need theirs; and with patients’ families and caregivers, who become experts on the topic, but are looking for reliable, accurate information. Who better to give them this information than us?”.