AstraZeneca – Trial Data for Gastric and Gastroesophageal Junction Cancers

Shubh Goel, VP, Head of Immuno-Oncology and GI Tumors Franchise at AstraZeneca discusses data presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2023 from the MATTERHORN Phase 3 trial data where patients with resectable, early-stage and locally advanced (Stages II, III, IVA) gastric and gastroesophageal junction cancers are treated with IMFINZI ® (durvalumab) + chemotherapy in the perioperative setting.

Born and raised in London by a mother who owned a clothing store and a father who she describes as a “science nerd,” Shubh Goel initially thought she’d follow in her mother’s footsteps traveling the world and working in fashion. But she ultimately fell in love with science and built a career in healthcare that inspires her every day.

Finding Her Way to Science

Shubh studied biochemistry at the University of Bath In the UK. The field excited her, helping her connect the dots and understand the intricacies of how the human body works.

I actually loved it more than I would have ever thought I would, because I went into it with some naivety.

Studying the immune system and the relationship to various diseases, created an ah-ha moment for Shubh, painting a clear picture of the molecular and chemical components and its connections to what was happening in a disease state, “and that’s what actually switched a light on for me,” Shubh explained.

Shubh’s first industry role was in the UK, in research at Pfizer in the immunology division. After transferring over to the commercial side of the business, somewhat by accident, she moved to the US with Takeda (Millennium Pharmaceuticals at the time) where she was introduced to oncology, as the organization was preparing for an accelerated approval. Hearing a patient’s first-hand experience about her prognosis, care, and clinical trial experience was moving and motivating all at the same time.

“When the patient came in to speak to our team and shared that she was given a devastating prognosis before enrolling in a clinical trial and was standing in front of us at a timepoint when she didn’t expect to be alive, there wasn’t dry eye in the room. That story and the impact that cancer therapies can have on someone’s life ignited a passion in me, keeping me committed to the Oncology space. I have never forgotten that moment and I never looked back. From then on, it was oncology all the way.” From this point forward Shubh was committed to not only bringing new cancer therapies to patients and their loved ones, but also advocating for people living with cancer, as much as she was able.

Building a Career in Oncology

Shubh then pivoted and took on several different commercial oncology roles. She has collaborated with scientists supporting the development of pipeline therapies and worked with sales and marketing teams, preparing to bring new medicines to patients. In her most recent role before AstraZeneca, Shubh was the Chief Commercial Officer for Fennec Pharmaceuticals, a late-stage biotechnology company dedicated to improving the lives of children with cancer. Then in March 2022, Shubh relocated from the New York City area to the D.C. area to join AstraZeneca as the VP, Head of Immuno-Oncology and Gastrointestinal (GI) Tumors Franchise for US Oncology, overseeing sales, marketing, and cross-functional efforts across the Immuno-Oncology portfolio of indications across tumors, and leading the GI sales team across indications in GI tumors.

For Shubh, the position at AstraZeneca felt as if all of her passions came together.

It gave me a chance to be a part of an organization a company that is at forefront of science.

Shubh Goel

“It also gave me the ability to build a team that was gearing up to bring new innovations to patients in a disease area [GI cancer] we hadn’t been in before. Finally, it allowed me to work in immuno-oncology alongside incredible people all focused on the right things — bringing solutions to patients in need. It felt like a place that I really wanted to be.”

2022, the year Shubh joined the AstraZeneca US Oncology team, was a year with several late-stage data milestones and FDA approvals across cancer types and indications. Being able to jump in and support several drug launches has been a true highlight for Shubh, sharing, “I’m still humbled and amazed by the difference we have been able to make for people with biliary tract cancer,” which is a group of rare and aggressive cancers that occur in the bile ducts and gallbladder. Shubh added, “It wasn’t just that we offered a new standard of care; but because there was now a new option, we saw evolution in how patients are diagnosed and deemed eligible for therapy. The landscape continues to evolve so that more patients are getting the correct diagnosis and access to care. While there is still a lot of work to do, there are very few times in your career that you are privileged to be a part of a changing treatment paradigm that enables more patients to be appropriately diagnosed and get access to therapies.”

Throughout her career, Shubh has seen first-hand how clinical progress can improve patients’ lives and has also been continually reminded of how much more work still needs to be done. Because of her passion for the patient and desire to give back, Shubh has also had the pleasure of serving the patient community directly, working with the boards of Fabulous and Fighting and the Red Door Community. In her role today, the patient is at the forefront of every decision made across the IO business.

Prioritizing Culture

When Shubh first joined AstraZeneca, she was impressed by the culture and touched by the warm welcome she received, explaining, “I can’t recall in my career having such a warm and genuine welcome from my peers, teammates and organization as a whole.” Company culture has always been very important for Shubh. Now as a leader, she is committed to maintaining a positive work culture, encouraging everyone to have a balanced life and make time for things outside of work. As part of this, she asks her team to differentiate what needs to get done versus what’s a nice to have.

Recently, one of her teams participated in an exercise focused on health and wellbeing in the workplace. When looking at the GI team specifically, Shubh is incredibly proud of not only what they’ve been able to achieve commercially, but also the culture they’ve built. “This was a brand new team, and the culture today is similar to a strong family feeling. There is trust, communication, transparency, empowerment, and a feeling of all wanting to be with one another. And that is really special and a testament to all the leaders who created this culture.”

Shubh celebrates her down time/time away from work getting outside, and spending time with close friends, loved ones, and especially her beloved dog. She values peaceful moments in which she can center herself. Finding this peace helps her focus on her team, because she knows patients are counting on the work that they all do.

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