Dr Emma Harris is a Team Leader in the Joint Department of Physics at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. She tells how radiotherapy fights cancer - in a way everyone can understand - about Marie Curie and about what makes her proud.
This film is part of 1000 Londoners, a five-year digital project which aims to create a digital portrait of a city through 1000 of the people who identify themselves with it. The profile contains a 3 minute film that gives an insight into the life of the Londoner, as well as their personal photos of London and some answers to crucial questions about their views on London life. Over the course of the project we aim to reveal as many facets of the capital as possible, seeing city life from 1000 points of view.
1000 Londoners is produced by South London based film production company and social enterprise, Chocolate Films. The filmmakers from Chocolate Films will be both producing the films and providing opportunities to young people and community groups to make their own short documentaries, which will contribute to the 1000 films. Visit www.chocolatefilms.com.
A lot of people have not even heard of radiotherapy and then when they have heard of it they don't appreciate that it's, you know, like one of the main methods to cure cancer. What happens is the… the radiation is absorbed by the cancer and then when it's absorbed by the cancer, the main mechanism in which it… it damages the DNA. So, basically the cancer is then damaged and unable to repair itself. So, basically that's how cancer's killed.
The only person I've known affected by cancer is my auntie, who's had breast cancer. She's ok now. So I remember wanting to be an astronaut, which I kinda guess a lot of physicists… (filmmaker) You got close. (Emma) Yeah, I got close. Then I wanted to be in the Navy for a bit. Euhm, I hope no, don't think I would have ever… I hate boats.
There's a lot of theories as to why people don't go into physics. I guess it's seen as a harder subject. I guess it was still seen that way when I was a kid as well. Like it wasn't seen as the glamorous, the biology was seen as really interesting. You get to cut up frogs and stuff, you know, everyone is really excited by that. You know, running cars down ramps is not that exciting.
I think it's strange because… I mean there is this discussion that there is a lack of female role models: Einstein, Newton, yeah, Rayleigh, everyone. So all of those, all of these kind of models we use in physics, you know, there's only Marie Curie that I can think of of the hat that, you know, is a female physicist. So, there's definitely a lack.
So she was kind of the mother of radiotherapy as well. As she was the first person to use radium to treat cancer. She would've just had a lump of radium essentially. I mean I guess they would've put it in a box. And then exposed the patient. So yeah, it would've been pretty basic.
I haven't had one of those massive breakthrough days where it's all gone really well. But, I mean, I guess there's certain things I'm proud of, if that makes sense. So, I've done a lot of work setting up, helping to set up image protocols in trials. And that's filtered through to make sure again that patients are getting the correct imaging, and the correct treatment. And that's filtered through to national trials. And that has also then filtered on to treatment. So that's something kind of very tangible that, you know, you can be doing something quite small, but it actually blossoms out to be a bigger thing. So, but yeah, no I've not had a massive Eureka moment. I'll tell you when I do.