The month of November at Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI), where I work, is synonymous with its annual research conference – Frontiers in Cancer Science (FCS). This year marked the 7th edition of FCS, a cancer research conference jointly organized by CSI, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical school(Duke-NUS), Institute of Molecular and cell biology (IMCB), Lee Kong Chian School of medicine (LKC Medicine), National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS).
Aimed at bringing together the cancer researchers across the various institutes in Singapore and worldwide, FCS provides a unique opportunity to interact with fellow scientists and discuss the recent advances over a period of three days. FCS 2015 held on 2nd,3rd and 4th November 2015 was a grand success and an intellectually stimulating experience. 31 established scientists discussed their innovative and ground-breaking research spanning a vast repertoire of niche areas like DNA damage, metabolism, epigenetic regulation and tumor microenvironment in cancer.
The conference had two keynote Speakers-Dr Ashok Venkitaraman and Dr Tony Hunter. Dr Ashok’s engaging talk on “Early intervention in Cancer through the tumor suppressive mechanisms that control genome stability” captured the attention of the audience and highlighted the recent advances of his group to develop newer microscopy and imaging tools to diagnose cancer lesions at early stages. This talk was followed by a series of talks on cancer immunotherapy, an aspect that is gaining increasing popularity to treat malignant lesions. Day 1 of the conference also featured talks on Wnt signalling, a pathway known to be highly dysregulated in a vast majority of cancer types and the promising current attempts to target it.
The second day of the conference had a variety of talks about the importance of epigenetic mechanisms underlying the malignant transformation and the potential to target the key epigenetic factors to reduce tumor burden. There were also interesting talks detailing the strategies used by tumorigenic cells for continued proliferation such as the mechanism of action of the activating mutations on the telomerase promoter which are highly prevalent in different cancer types and targeting the autophagy-lysosome pathway to treat tumors.
The final day of the conference began with the second keynote talk by Dr Tony Hunter-“Protein phosphorylation and cell signalling in cancer”. His talk encompassed the vast literature on the human kinome and its significance in cancer. He discussed the role of protein post translational modifications in regulating key cellular pathways and also tumorigenesis. Of particular interest was the discovery of loss of function mutations of many different kinases such as the death associated protein kinase (DAPK3) in tumors and a mechanistic insight into their role. The following talks about cancer metabolism and hedgehog signalling offered the audience a glimpse into the diverse world of tumorigenesis. Alternative splicing and codon bias as attractive strategies used by cancer cells to achieve their goal was also discussed in the conference. The conference also featured 60 posters by fellow students and post-docs and the poster sessions provided a fabulous opportunity to discuss good science with the people directly involved.
At the end of 3 days, I was left with mixed feelings. Intellectually overwhelmed at the scientific prowess of the speakers, while also questioning my own research interests with a newer perspective and most importantly highly inspired to contribute to some of the excellent research that is moving at a breakneck speed.
For detailed information on the speakers and their abstracts please access the following weblink-http://www.csi.nus.edu.sg/FCS2015/