Cancer Research UK Brain Tumour Conference

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Published: 11 May 2018
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Dr Johanna Joyce - Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

Dr Joyce talks to ecancer at the Cancer Research UK Brain Tumour Conference 2018 in London about the conference aims and focus and she looks forward to future conferences.

She goes on to discuss the benefit and need for further collaboration in this field in order to improve treatments and outcomes for patients.

What has been great about this meeting, there have been many things, one aspect is the format that the organisers have decided to try out here. It’s been one of the few meetings that I’ve gone to that has used that format so let me just say what that is. Essentially what the organisers, CRUK, Cancer Research UK, as well as Richard Gilbertson who is the chief organiser of this conference, asked us to do as speakers and as chairs is to really focus, maybe using our own research, to highlight examples but not to give a traditional talk. To talk more about what are the challenges in brain tumour research, in advancing studies from the lab to the clinic, for example, and how do we overcome those challenges and where are the opportunities. In terms of the topics that have been picked for the various different sessions often these are maybe groups of people that don’t necessarily talk with each other. Of course we all talk with each other but don’t work together.
So brain tumour research, like many other aspects of cancer research, has been quite siloed. What has been really great about this meeting over the last three days is that there have been many opportunities because of the degree of discussion, because it’s panel discussion you don’t have questions after each individual talk, it really facilitates discussing different opinions, different takes on the data, different takes on the clinical trial results. But also going forward it makes us really take a step back and think about what are we trying to do here, what are the key questions, how can we address them, how can we take ideas and principles from other disciplines. So, for example, here we’ve had sessions on how neural development per se, how can some of the principles for that be potentially important, be hijacked, as it were, in the context of cancer. The same applies to the immune system.

We had a session this morning on the blood-brain barrier, the importance of understanding the cell biology of the blood-brain barrier as a means to improve drug delivery. That’s a question that impacts every tenant of brain tumour research and clinical application.

So, again, bringing together groups of people that wouldn’t necessarily find each other and, as a consequence of that, we’re already finding multiple different ways to continue talking, to start collaborating to maybe think about applying for grants together. That unquestionably would not have happened without this type of forum. So in that respect it has really been a phenomenal success and something that Cancer Research UK is clearly going to apply to other disease types as well.