Alberto Cambrosio (McGill University) is a new guest professor at the CSO for one year (September 2011-June 2012)

Created: 5 September 2011

Alberto Cambrosio is professor of sociology at McGill University (Department of Social Studies of Medicine) since 1990.

Professor Cambrosio's 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 (in particular: genomics) to the diagnosis and the therapy of cancer, the development of cancer clinical trials in North-America and Europe, and the development of networks and hybrid platforms linking clinical researchers, laboratory scientists and biotechnology companies. He is especially concerned, in how biomedicine has come to grips with the multiple and ubiquitous cultural, socio-technical and practical differences and variations with which it is increasingly confronted. More in particular, he is interested in the creation of institutions and instruments to manage these differences and generate consensus, however partial or temporary in nature, and thus with the social and historical dynamics of biomedical regulation, objectification and standardization.

Professor Cambrosio’s most recent project (supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) 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, 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, 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.

Research Areas: Cancer Clinical Trials; Laboratory-Clinical Interactions; Material Culture and Regulation of Biomedicine; Network Analysis of Biomedical Research; Platforms and biomedical innovation.

More information about Alberto Cambrosio