Daily Discoveries. Christina works in the Epigenetic Department at Celgene as a research scientist, exploring a number of cancer indications. On a given day, she could be validating new targets in oncology or screening library compounds to identify drugs and assessing how they work within cells. “We begin by identifying a target, unique to a certain tumor type. This “precision medicine” approach is really fascinating because it allows us to develop medicines with a greater specificity for the tumor versus normal healthy tissue,” says Christina. “You never know what exciting discovery you might make in the lab on a given day. Each point in the research process holds the potential to reveal something new. The possibilities are infinite, and that fuels our motivation.”
The Driving Force. At the age of 13, Christina’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer – a defining moment that piqued her interest in medicine. At the time, her mother was treated with a newly approved medicine, which only furthered her understanding of research and discovery as an integral piece of medicine and patient care.
“My mom was re-diagnosed with metastatic cancer about a year and a half ago,” said Christina. “Thanks to the treatments made available to her 20 years ago, she was able to live 18 healthy years cancer free. But our work is not done! Now, more than ever, I understand the urgency of furthering innovative research with the ultimate goal of finding a cure.”
Challenges, Chance and Looking Forward. Christina admits that for those working in the lab, there are far more setbacks than wins. “Breakthrough success is rare, but the promise of that success far outweighs the disappointment that comes with the failures,” says Christina.
When asked about what excites her most about biomedicine today, Christina doesn’t hesitate: immuno-oncology. Over the last ten years, immuno-oncology has grown significantly. “Being in this line of work has been thrilling,” says Christina. “Jimmy Carter was treated with this type of therapy—an antibody which binds to your immune cells and reactivates them to fight the tumor. He’s cancer-free now thanks to this new field of research.”
Another reason Christina has hope for the future of innovation? She’s deeply involved with the San Diego Reuben H. Fleet Science Center; a science museum focused on education for children and adults. In her role as a Science Ambassador, she explains “Seeing how engaged people in the community are and answering the questions they have about our research reminds me that the work we do has a real and lasting impact on the lives of many.”