The haemato-oncologist Sonia Vallet, a doctor in the hospital and a researcher in the laboratory, is a deeply committed physician and scientist, extremely passionate about both. “When I’m in the lab, I miss personal contact with patients and when I’m on the ward, I want to get to the bottom of diseases so I can help my patients as much as possible. This is why research in a lab matters so much to me,” is how the unfailing optimist – as she calls herself – describes her daily split between the two worlds of her profession. At present, Vallet is Senior Physician at the Clinical Department of Internal Medicine 2 of the University Hospital in Krems and head of the Molecular Oncology/Haematology research group at the KL. She is also Professor of experimental oncology and haematology.
Vallet was born in Italy and looks back on a diverse international career as both hospital doctor and researcher. Her investigative spirit was piqued during her medical training at the University of Turin. While working as a post-doc at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) at the Harvard Medical School in Boston (U.S., under Kenneth Anderson) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH, under Noopur Raje), she focused on multiple myeloma, a type of leukaemia which is still incurable despite a tremendous progress in treatment. In close cooperation with the Centre for Regenerative Medicine (with David Scadden), she dealt in particular with the patho-physiological role of cancer and bone cell interaction.
Despite her scientific curiosity and enthusiasm for experimental research, Vallet began to miss working with patients. She therefore moved to the National Centre for Tumour Diseases (NCT) at Heidelberg in Germany, where she was instrumental as a haemato-oncologist in establishing a clinical department for uro-oncological diseases. At the same time, she looked for mechanisms in the lab that lead to bone metastases in patients suffering from breast cancer. “For me, clinical work and research merged in Heidelberg,” she resumes. Eventually, she found her way to the University Hospital in Krems and the KL.
Today, Vallet switches between her work at the University Hospital and the Molecular Oncology work group of the Karl Landsteiner Private University. She relishes the close cooperation with the Urology department at the hospital, while focussing her research interest on discovering biomarkers and new approaches to treat bone metastases. “Il sacro fuoco, the sacred fire of my curiosity and my optimism, got me a long way,” says Vallet. Her commitment and enthusiasm are so infectious, you cannot help agreeing to her and hoping that this fire will never go out.