Over the last couple of days, researchers from across The Institute of Cancer Research, London, have been gathering for our two-day annual conference. Our researchers spend much of the year presenting to big international meetings, but this is a more intimate internal occasion. It allows our staff to reflect on the research successes of the past 12 months and share their thoughts on the challenges ahead, and provides a fantastic learning experience for our students.
This year's programme covers a diverse range of research carried out at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) on topics including drug resistance, radiosensitisation, genetics, angiogenesis, molecular pathology and physics to mention only a few. A major theme of the conference will be personalised medicine for cancer, a focal point of the ICR scientific strategy. Cancer is an umbrella term for more than 200 different diseases and research carried out at the ICR and worldwide is breaking these down further into sub-types. As a result, cancer specialists are moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to one which targets the genetic and molecular drivers behind the progression of each cancer sub-type – this is called personalised medicine.
Speakers on this topic include Professor Johann de Bono, Head of the Drug Development Unit at the ICR and The Royal Marsden, who leads a team that has recently seen positive results in an early trial of a drug for treatment of cancer patients with BRCA mutations.
Dr David Gonzalez de Castro, Head of Molecular Diagnostics at the ICR and The Royal Marsden, will also present on this topic. Dr Gonzalez’s research involves developing cancer therapies for sub-types of certain classes of cancer which are driven by different genetic mutations – a video summarising this research is available here.
On top of this, we will also hear from leading scientists within the ICR Division of Breast Cancer Research and scientists and clinicians working on prostate cancer across multiple teams. A breast cancer session will be chaired by Professor Clare Isacke, whose team has recently identified a new way of treating breast cancers that could overcome their resistance to a vitally important class of cancer drugs called aromatose inhibitors.
The prostate cancer session will include a presentation from Professor Ros Eeles who recently led research which found that prostate cancer patients with a faulty version of BRCA2 require urgent treatment.
Finally, Professor Markus Müschen, the ICR's new Head of Molecular Pathology, will present on his research. A session on haematological cancers - blood cancers, including myeloma, leukaemia and the lymphomas, will be chaired by Professor Gareth Morgan, whose team recently found that analysing chemical changes in certain genes could provide a valuable tool for doctors assessing prognosis and treatments for myeloma - a type of cancer arising from plasma cells which are found in the bone marrow.
Between these overarching themes, there will be many other exciting topics covered and scientists will present scientific posters summarising early-stage research emerging from ICR labs. With such a diverse programme of research areas crammed into two days, the conference will be buzzing with discussion, debate and ideas about the next steps we need to take towards reaching our common goal - to make the discoveries that defeat cancer.
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