An Amazing Opportunity

Siddharth (Sid) Sheth, DO, MPH, offers a first-person take on receiving the AACR-AstraZeneca Immuno-oncology Research Training Fellowship.

During my medical oncology fellowship at the University of North Carolina (UNC), I explored research interests to complement my clinical focus on head and neck cancers. After much soul-searching, I determined that my great passion was developing and leading early-phase clinical trials. Fortuitously, I received an email about a new program—the Immuno-oncology Research Training Fellowship sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and AstraZeneca. I applied for and was accepted as the program’s first participant.

In July 2018, I moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland, home of AstraZeneca’s U.S. headquarters. Leaving UNC’s nurturing academic environment for an unproven industry-led program was unsettling. However, the opportunity to work with AstraZeneca’s clinical development team and participate in their expansive and innovative immuno-oncology portfolio was too appealing.

During my fellowship year, I was placed on three investigational immunotherapy programs that were being evaluated in early-phase clinical trials. I was mentored by accomplished clinicians and scientists who were committed to maximizing my experience. Every day was different and intellectually stimulating. In meetings with lab scientists, we reviewed how toxicities found in preclinical studies should be monitored in a first-in-human clinical trial. In translational meetings, we assessed molecular profiling data to identify biomarkers of treatment response. On my own time, I pondered scientific questions and was provided access to clinical data and resources to answer them.

In one year, I achieved tangible milestones. I helped interpret clinical trial data and completed manuscripts for publications. I reviewed clinical concepts submitted by external investigators and even proposed trial concepts of my own. With the help of a great team, I led efforts to evaluate the safety and efficacy of re-treatment with durvalumab (Imfinzi) in solid tumors. This work resulted in an oral presentation at the 2019 European Society for Medical Oncology annual meeting and a first author publication in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (JITC). Perhaps most importantly, I learned how to think about clinical trials from industry’s perspective. While I ultimately returned to UNC to commence my professional career, I firmly believe that advancements in oncology depend on close collaboration with industry.

I am extremely thankful to have participated in the AACR-AstraZeneca Immuno-oncology Research Training Fellowship. I encourage all interested oncology trainees to consider this amazing opportunity!

Siddharth Sheth, DO, MPH was awarded the Scholar-in-Training Award from the American Association for Cancer Research and American Head and Neck Society (AACR-AHNS) in 2018.  He works at the UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, NC as the Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Hematology/Oncology Division.