The Frontiers in Cancer Science was started in 2009 with the purpose of organizing an annual gathering for experts and researchers in cancer science with delegates restricted to Cancer Science Institute. Over the years, the conference has gained massive traction and the 8th Frontiers in Cancer Science was jointly organized by the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore), Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine), National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) from 7-9th November.
The 3-day event was held at University Cultural Centre in the National University of Singapore. It was attended by 714 participants including 30 speakers and delegates from Singapore and a wide range of countries like India, China, Italy, United Kingdom, South Africa, South Korea, Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Tribute to Lorenz Poellinger
Day 1 of the conference began with a tribute to Prof. Lorenz Poellinger, who was a Senior Principal Investigator with the Cancer Stem Cells and Biology Program at CSI, Singapore. Prof. Lorenz, who also served on the advisory boards of Frontiers in Cancer Science and the CSI Graduate Program, passed away in March earlier this year. The Keynote lecture, coined Lorenz Poellinger Keynote Talk, was given by William Kaelin from Dana Farber Cancer Institute, USA.
Dr. Kaelin spoke about his research group’s latest findings on Von Hippel Lindau Syndrome. VHL is an inherited disorder characterized by the formation of tumors and fluid-filled sacs (cysts) in many different parts of the body. More importantly, he stressed on the need to validate and confirm your hypothesis and observations using multiple lines of experimentation to make sure the evidence is fail-proof. With the increasing concerns in the scientific community regarding data reproducibility, authenticity and manipulation, addressing them is indeed the need of the hour.
Such concerns were repeatedly highlighted throughout the conference and the young researchers were encouraged to imbibe this culture.
Invited speakers and special talks
The Keynote lecture was followed by a series of talks over a period of 3 days by reputed scientists from all over the world. Recent developments in Breast Cancer, Leukemia, emerging cancer therapies, personalized cancer treatment and the molecular pathways underlying cancer were discussed. Stalwarts in cancer biology like Michael Yaffe, Kimberley Blackwell, Robert Eisenman, Navdeep Chandel, Andrea Pavesi, Peter Sicinski, Cheryl Arrowsmith, Takaomi Sanda and Jean-Christophe Marine gave some inspiring lectures over cutting edge cancer research.
Approach to cancer therapy is flawed
One of the most significant and well-received talks in the conference was given by Dr. Michael Taylor. Dr Taylor is the Staff Neurosurgeon and Senior Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Canada. He specializes in paediatric neurosurgery and his group works on Medulloblastomas – brain tumors prevalent in children. Dr Taylor spoke in detail about how un-identification and misidentification of the sub-type of these brain tumors lead to incorrect treatment regimen in children. The therapy is, thereby, rendered ineffective. Using a range of experiments in laboratory and using evidence from patients, he demonstrated how subtype identification is and should be made a prerequisite for specific chemotherapy that is provided to the patients.
Dr. Cheryl Arrowsmith‘s talk on “Probing the Epigenome with Chemical Biology” was equally well-appreciated for providing a novel perspective towards cancer therapy (or therapeutics on the whole). She spoke about utilising protein structural information to develop new chemical genetic tools to define, perturb and manipulate essential functions of proteins involved in methylation-dependent signalling.
Activities and competitions
The conference also had two poster presentation sessions, where graduate students and postdoctoral fellows were provided with an opportunity to present their work. Out of a total 107 posters received, 62 were accepted for display. Selected abstracts from these posters were also invited to give short talks that were interspersed amidst the invited talks. Franklin Zhong from Institute of Medical Biology, Singapore was awarded the first prize for the poster competition. Yan Ming Fei was adjudged the winner of the Best Oral Presentation competition.
All in all, the conference served as an efficient platform to converge the latest cancer discoveries around the world. In addition, the meeting brought groundbreaking and innovative insights to a diverse repertoire of cancer research. Ample networking opportunities with local and international researchers and companies proved to be quite a learning experience.
The next edition of this conference will be held on November 6-8, 2017 at Matrix Building in Biopolis.