Spotlight on... Professor Jayant S Vaidya

This week Jayant, Professor of Surgery and Oncology at UCL Division of Surgery, shares the story of how he helped to develop a pioneering new treatment for breast cancer, which is featured as a case study in UCL’s latest REF submission.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am Professor of Surgery and Oncology, involving thinking, dreaming, and doing research, teaching and clinical practice.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I have been at UCL since 1996, as a surgical registrar/ research fellow, clinical lecturer, and after a gap of 4 years, senior lecturer, reader and professor.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Conceiving the idea of targeted partial breast irradiation (PBI) during lumpectomy for breast cancer, inventing the technique of  TARGeted Intraoperative radioTherapy  ( TARGIT-IORT ) along with Professor Michael Baum and Professor Jeffrey Tobias, and persisting, against the usual opposition to change, to test its efficacy and producing the most robust evidence by conducting large international randomised clinical trials, in collaboration with clinicians, scientists, and patients worldwide, all spanning over 25 years. 

The research has led to a conceptual change in breast cancer treatment. TARGIT-IORT has now been adopted around the world, with about 50,000 patients already treated in 260 centres in 38 countries.

The latest randomised evidence found that this single-dose radiation (instead of the usual daily treatment for several weeks) is not only more convenient, less painful, with better quality of life, but also reduces deaths by a magnitude similar to many chemotherapy and biologic therapies, at a fraction of the cost. By greatly reducing travel it can also reduce carbon emissions.

I was delighted that our research was included in the 5 amazing health research breakthroughs by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and that UCL and UCLH have chosen it to showcase their 2021 REF research impact.

You can tune into the UCL podcast ’Where UCL transforms lives’ - Ep2 Transforming Cancer Treatment, to hear more about my research and the impact it’s having.

I am most proud of thinking outside the box, and having the courage and persistence in pursuing the scientific method and innovation with the aims of understanding the nature of disease and patient benefit - and when evidence is compelling, challenging the conceptual dogmas such as neoadjuvant chemotherapy, whole breast radiotherapy, or extensive surgical interventions.   

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

Investigating whether TARGIT-IORT as a tumour bed boost in younger or higher-risk patients in whom TARGIT-IORT alone may not be suitable in a large international randomised TARGIT-B(oost) clinical trial, novel nano-engineered diagnostic tools, and the most exciting oncomagnetic therapy for cancer.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

[Indian playback singer] Lata Mangeshkar, Star Trek Back to the Future  and the  Foundation  series by Isaac Asimov.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Me: Have you ever seen an elephant hiding behind a strawberry bush? 
You: No!
Me: See, how well he hid himself!

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Richard Feynman, the Curies, the Obamas, Roger Federer, Shakespeare, Elon Musk, Dnyaneshwar, Tansen, Birbal, Shivaji, and our close extended family.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t despair, keep calm and carry on - it is going to work out just as you imagine.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I learnt to play a musical instrument (the tabla) and was a good batsman in cricket

What is your favourite place?

Home, places of natural beauty such as mountains, forests and the Miramar beach, hospital - wherever I am engrossed.

 


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