European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (EMCC) 2011, 23-27 September, Stockholm
Looking forward to the 2012 ESTRO meeting
Dr Brad Wouters – Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto, Canada
Brad Wouters, thank you very much indeed for talking to us about the ESTRO meeting in May 2012. Now you’re from Toronto, Princess Margaret Hospital, and what do you do there?
I’m a radiation biologist at the Ontario Cancer Institute at the Princess Margaret Hospital. We’ve got a fairly big group there and we’re part of even a much larger team with a focus on the tumour microenvironment, on tumour hypoxia and tumour metabolism and the influence that has on treatment.
And you work with the clinicians there?
Yes, we work closely.
Or they pop in and out occasionally.
They do indeed. We’ve got a large programme there involving six or seven principal investigators, these include clinicians doing early phase clinical trials but also basic biologists trying to understand cell signalling and the influence of specific genetic alterations in cancer on the tumour microenvironment and influence on therapy. It also involves teams in medical imaging that are developing image-based biomarkers for imaging the tumour microenvironment, so it’s really a nice environment to focus the team on an issue.
Brad, you’re responsible for the science programme at ESTRO 31 next year, what are the hot topics?
ESTRO 31, the programme is shaping up to be a very exciting one. ESTRO is a very unique kind of meeting because it has traditionally always involved a large amount of basic biology and the chance for those biologists to interact with clinicians and with physicists is really a great opportunity. But that being said, the biology portion of the programme does have its own track, it has a dedicated area and room and we have a number of very hot topics at the moment that are going to be addressed.
What are they?
This includes several thematic days, one of these is going to be dedicated to the issue of stem cells. This is, of course, a very hot topic in a variety of different fields, including radiation and, for our discipline, this is both true for understanding and potentially modifying normal tissue responses where they can be used in terms of a regenerative medicine potential but also, of course, on the issue of tumour stem cells and the need to address adequately these cells which are thought to be the long-term contributors to treatment.
Other hot topics?
We also have a day dedicated to new types of therapy, new targeted therapy and the interaction with radiation with targeted therapy. Specifically, programmes focussing on the possibilities of what we call synthetic lethal relationships between radiation and mutations that occur in cancer. There are several of these now and we’ve got some exciting topics around that.
And then there’s the multidisciplinarity bit too, or interdisciplinarity, what’s that all about?
It certainly is. We try, actually, to focus a lot of our sessions to be multidisciplinary. The area with new targeted agents and the important biological characteristics and the interaction there, of course, are of interest to therapists, radiation oncologists, because these are already being integrated into the clinic. We also have sessions on molecular imaging and new potential biomarkers and targets, this includes combination sessions with the physicists. So this is a chance for us to really interact in a way that benefits both of those semi-individual disciplines inside the society.
So it’s inter-discipline: basic scientist - translational scientist, translational scientist – clinician?
And it’s also transversely the imaging people talking to the treatment planning people talking to the interaction people who are doing cell biology.
It is, it is. So each of these groups have their own tracks in the programme, the clinicians, the physicists, the biologists, but we all dedicate portions of the programme to sessions that will be multidisciplinary between those groups. Some of them are more translational focussed which involve biologists and clinicians, other ones a bit more basic and these may involve biologists and physicists, for example.
So I don’t come from a very rich institute, I’ve only got money for one meeting a year, why should I come to ESTRO in May next year?
It’s really that opportunity to interact with all of our colleagues in our discipline, in radiation oncology. From the biological point of view it’s a chance to see where that biology integrates into the clinic; it’s a chance to talk with our clinicians and understand the biological problems that are arising in the clinic that ultimately serve as the source for new experimental investigations. And it’s a chance to develop new biomarkers with the physicists and so on. It’s going to be a great meeting, Barcelona is a nice city and we’re all looking forward to it.
It’s not to be missed.
It’s not to be missed.
Brad, thank you very much indeed, I really appreciate it.