‘I feel my work has made a difference.’”
Riyue Bao, PhD, jokes that her journey into cancer research is really a long story – and it began with a thesis on a cave beetle’s loss of vision.
Working on that thesis helped Dr. Bao gain an interest in bioinformatics. Bioinformatics uses computer technology first to analyze and understand medical data and then to advance care.
“This is actually quite a fun experience,” says Dr. Bao, co-director of Bioinformatics at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “If you imagine you enter an unknown space, everything is dark. And then you hold your lantern, and you’re trying to find where you want to go. I always find it exciting to fulfill my curiosity on exploring the unknown.”
Dr. Bao’s work centers on exploring why some patients respond differently to cancer immunotherapy. Her research can help clinicians shape clinical trials for cancer patients.
“When I feel most excited is whenever I actually see a patient got put on a trial as a result of my work and then they actually responded,” Dr. Bao says. “So even though I don’t see patients myself, I feel, ‘Hey, my work has made a difference.’”
As a child, Dr. Bao was an introvert. But today, she collaborates with physicians and other researchers to advance cancer care. As a professor, she also has a hand in shaping the next generation of cancer researchers.
Dr. Bao – whose nickname is “Sunny” – finds the work at UPMC Hillman rewarding.
“I’m always excited to be part of the team, and I really like to see my contribution make a difference,” she says.
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