Alberto Cambrosio

Professor, Department of Social Studies of Medicine - McGill University

A professor at McGill University’s Department of Social Studies of Medicine since 1990, Alberto Cambrosio obtained his Ph.D. in “Histoire et sociopolitique des sciences” from Université de Montréal in 1994. His area of expertise lies at the crossroads of medical sociology and the sociology of science and technology. His work focuses on the “material culture” of biomedical practices, and in particular on the study of the application of modern biological techniques to the diagnosis and the therapy of cancer, and the comparative (North-America - Europe) development of cancer clinical trials. He is especially interested in how biomedicine has come to grips with the multiple and ubiquitous cultural, social and practical differences and variations with which it is increasingly confronted. He therefore investigates the creation of institutions and instruments to manage these differences and generate consensus, however partial or temporary in nature. In other words, his work centers on the social and historical dynamics of biomedical regulation (broadly defined), objectification and standardization. His most recent project examines “genomics in action”, i.e., as applied to concrete instances of medical work, by investigating public, academic and commercial programs that capitalize on the therapeutic insights offered by the new molecular genetics of cancer. His most recent book (Cancer on Trial: Oncology as a New Style of Practice, The University of Chicago Press, 2012), co-authored with Peter Keating, argues that, contrary to common assumptions, clinical trials do not boil down to mere “technology” or a few methodological principles: rather, they are an institution that corresponds to a profound transformation of biomedical activities. They rise to the level of a “new style of practice”, insofar as they generate novel, distinctive ways of producing and assessing medical knowledge. As such, they signal a collective turn in medical research (via large-scale networks of clinical researchers) that reorders the relations between private and public institutions, establishes new interfaces between research laboratories and clinical settings (and, most recently, biotech companies), and redefines the relation between patients and medical practitioners. This work builds on a previous book (Biomedical Platforms: Realigning the Normal and the Pathological in Late-Twentieth-Century Medicine, MIT Press, 2003), also co-authored with Peter Keating, that analyzed the transformation of medicine into biomedicine and its consequences since the end of World War II, ranging from the recasting of hospital architecture to the redefinition of the human body, disease, and therapeutic practices. Biomedical Platforms was awarded the 2005 Ludwik Fleck Prize by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) for the best book in the area of science and technology studies. Other publications include Exquisite Specificity. The Monoclonal Antibody Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1995, also co-authored with Peter Keating), and the volume (co-edited with Margaret Lock and Allan Young) Living and Working with the New Medical Technologies. Intersections of Inquiry (Cambridge University Press, 2001).


Precision medicine in oncology : challenges, stakes and new paradigms

Thursday April 6th from 09:00 am to 11:30 am
Workshop B