Dr Martin Barr is a Clinical Scientist & Adjunct Assistant Professor, St James’s Hospital & Trinity College Dublin
The 25th Biennial Congress of the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR25) celebrated its 50th Anniversary this year which was held at the RAI in Amsterdam from June 30th to July 3rd 2018. Thanks to both the EACR and the IACR, I was honoured to be able to attend this conference as part of my EACR Young Scientist Award.
With the theme ‘From Fundamental Insight to Rational Cancer Treatment’, the congress featured world-class speakers discussing the most innovative current research topics and included a special one-day educational programme ‘Cancer Science for Oncologists’. This consisted of 8 specialized lectures aimed at those working in the field of cancer research, particularly those working as Oncologists or medical practitioners in the cancer space. In addition to the high-profile plenary sessions, the programme offered parallel symposia, allowing participants to build their own scientific programme according to their own specific interests.
One of the key themes of the conference that was of significant interest to my own research was the ‘liquid biopsy’ which was covered extensively between the various sessions. Professor Caroline Dive from Cancer Research UK & the Christie Hospital in Manchester spoke on several occasions on their current strategies and technologies in developing the liquid biopsy as a means to hunting cancer cells that have broken free from tumours and are circulating in the bloodstream in the context of both NSCLC and SCLC. Developing simple blood tests to capture cancer cells could help researchers understand how lung cancer changes as it grows and spreads, and how it can become resistant to treatment.
In turn, this will open up opportunities to develop new therapies to treat this deadly disease more effectively. As an EACR25 participant, there were many opportunities for interacting with other delegates from across Europe through the various workshops, dedicated networking sessions and social events. Moreover, this interaction was further enhanced during my poster presentation allowing me to initiate new collaborations and receive feedback on my research on DNA repair in NSCLC. One particular highlight of the conference opening was the humorous (yet very true!) portrayal of ‘Love and fear in the lab’ by Professor Uri Alon from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel who delivered a talk, on guitar, about the emotional and subjective side of choosing science as a career!
During the course of the conference, a number of plenary talks were delivered by various European investigators leading innovative and discovery cancer research programmes at their relevant Institutions. Professor Karen Vousden, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Scientist and a Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute was this year’s recipient of the Mike Price Gold Medal Award, a biennial award recognizing a senior researcher who has made exceptional contributions to the progress of cancer research in Europe. She presented some of their novel findings in relation to the regulation of tumour suppressor gene p53 and novel targeted treatments that are currently being developed as novel cancer treatments.
The Pezcoller Foundation-EACR Cancer Researcher Award Lecture was delivered by Professor Jan Korbel, EMBL, Germany who presented work from the Korbel laboratory demonstrating how combining experimental and computational approaches, including single-cell sequencing technology, can be used to unravel determinants and consequences of germline and somatic genetic variation. Professor Korbel and his group are among the pioneers in the utilization of cloud computing to enable sharing and processing of largescale omics data.
The end of this enlightening and successful conference was marked by the EACR 50th Anniversary & Congress Dinner, where the very impressive National Maritime Museum marked the setting for this cultural and social event. A great evening was had among fellow European and Irish cancer researchers, including our very own IACR President, Professor Amanda McCann.