The 12 million cancer survivors in the US are a tribute to the increasingly successful use of various chemotherapy and radiation treatments. But it has long been known that as they target tumor cells these treatments also injure healthy tissues including the heart and arteries causing high blood pressure, stroke, arrhythmia, pericarditis and other often life-threatening conditions.
An honours graduate with a BScH in Life Sciences from Queens University, Melissa Moey first began to have an interest in cardiology while earning an MSc in Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Western Ontario. As a medical student at Saba, she picked up an interest in cardio-oncology while completing the required Research Literature Review and Analysis (RLRA) module in her fifth semester.
Saba implemented the RLRA module to help students better evaluate medical literature and communicate to patients. For many students, the RLRA has a major impact on the path they take through residency and, often, into fellowships.
Melissa used her RLRA project at Saba to investigate cardiotoxicity issues related to the use of trastuzumabin in treating HER2 positive breast cancer patients (patients testing positive for the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2). Now in her residency at Vidant Medical Center/East Carolina University, Melissa is again studying HER2 patients, looking at the protective effects of certain cardiac drugs against the development of heart failure during adjuvant chemotherapy. “My RLRA really helped me jumpstart this project that I am now doing in my residency. I am translating what I wrote for the RLRA to an actual hospital setting. I am using the exact same concept with actual patient data in the hospital and doing a retrospective analysis on patients with the disease to identify potential cardiac medications that could protect them.”
According to Melissa, there are no true current guidelines that look at what is the best interval for monitoring cardiac function or the best imaging modality for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
“Hopefully with results from this study, it could really change the treatment process for this subset of breast cancer patients and allow them to experience the full benefits from chemotherapy. I am really fascinated by the field of cardio-oncology now.”
A native of Markham, Canada, Melissa has undertaken a wide range of research projects. As an undergraduate, she was the recipient of a research grant valued at $4500 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to study the antimicrobial ability of certain therapeutic polymers.
Melissa is not all work. Among her many other talents and interests, she is a singer and an active badminton player. While at Saba, she helped launch both the Synaptic Clefs student choir and the Saba Badminton Club.