“Science doesn’t have a gender”

Dr Céline Delloye-Bourgeois is tackling a formidable problem in the field of pediatrics: neuroblastoma. This cancer is under-researched because it starts to develop in the foetus, and embryo research is fraught with ethical and technical issues. In response to the needs of patients, Dr Delloye-Bourgeois has developed new models for studying neuroblastoma.

What is the subject of your research?

I am researching an aggressive form of childhood cancer, neuroblastoma, for which current treatments are not very effective. This form of cancer has a unique feature: it develops in a cell population which only exists during the embryonic development stage, which makes it difficult to study. We are taking advantage of techniques originally developed by means of embryo research in the laboratory to find out how molecular signals in the embryo contribute to the development and aggressiveness of neuroblastoma. In the short term, this project should give us a better understanding of how neuroblastoma develops. In the longer term, the underlying idea of the project is to identify new therapeutic compounds that interfere with the signals we hope to identify. This would give rise to new therapeutic solutions for a form of pediatric cancer that is currently subject to drastic and unspecific treatments.

What challenges do you face as a woman in this job?

I realize that reconciling this job with family life calls for unfailing perseverance and organization, which can be disheartening at times. All the more so when you consider that taking a break from work, for example to go on maternity leave, can put you at a disadvantage in a competitive, constantly changing environment.

What would you like to say to young people interested in science?

I’d like to convey the message that science doesn’t have a gender. It is an opportunity to combine imagination, creativity and scientific rigor. I’d also like to draw attention to the range of different careers possible in science, which I discovered late in the game because I wasn’t given sufficient career guidance information. Finally, I’d like to encourage girls specifically to give themselves permission to consider a scientific career and not rely on the conventional idea that a long and absorbing course of study means you will have no personal life!

How would you describe scientific research?

I believe that scientific research is directly linked to the creative mind, perhaps even the mind of a dreamer. Genuine innovations and scientific discoveries are based on new ideas that, deliberately or not, draw on the imagination.

Céline Delloye-Bourgeois received a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship in 2014.

For Women in Science

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