Nanotechnology in Cancer 2019: A Participant’s View

99 participants from 25 countries attended the EACR Conference on Nanotechnology in Cancer: Engineering for Oncology, at Churchill College, Cambridge, UK from 12-14 September 2019. It was the first Nanotechnology meeting to be a part of EACR Conferences. The conference received a 100% satisfaction rating for opportunities to network and interact.

Would you like to find out more about Nanotechnology in Cancer 2019? You can read our Conference Review here.

We awarded seven EACR-Worldwide Cancer Research bursaries to assist early-career members to attend the conference and present their work. Each EACR-Worldwide Cancer Research Meeting Bursary includes a free registration and funds of up to €500 to support travel and accommodation costs.

Below you can take a look through the reports from our Nanotechnology in Cancer 2019 bursary recipients to get an insight into their experiences at the conference.


1Angela Pine, PhD Student

Home institution: University of Essex, UK

I am currently developing a new treatment for end-stage prostate cancer and HPV16 infection by way of gene therapy using a nanotechnology delivery method that will hopefully translate into patients.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

Meeting and speaking to so many scientists working in the field of nanotechnology. I am the only person working on this topic at my university, so it was great to be able to learn from and interact with people from the field.

Were there any social/networking highlights you want to tell us about?

Meeting the President-elect of the EACR was such a privilege. Caroline Dive was so approachable and willing to help in any way, even speaking about a potential collaboration which was fantastic.

The conference confirmed for me that this IS the field I want to work in

How was this conference different from others you have attended?

The sessions were a perfect length and the breaks including networking and poster sessions was a brilliant way to hit the reset button after listening to interesting talks.  There was so much opportunity to speak with others it really encouraged networking and a chance to discuss potential collaborations.

Angela Pine
Angela in the lab
Did you take part in any interesting local/cultural activities in your free time outside of the conference?

I didn’t because I don’t live too far from Cambridge. However, I loved getting to experience the college and its picturesque grounds during the conference.

How has the conference inspired you in your research?

I have gained so much experience in the field just by meeting and being exposed to others working in nanotechnology. I have learned so much more than I can from just reading papers and textbooks on the subject. Because nanotechnology is such a growing field and still fairly new, it is not something as a student I have been exposed to by way of training or courses so learning about the technologies that exist is still quite difficult at times. This conference helped me so much and I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend and the bursary.

When you got home, is there anything from the conference that you immediately wanted to tell your colleagues about? What was it?

The conference confirmed for me that this IS the field I want to work in. The subject is so interesting and even the people I met were all so welcoming and helpful. I can’t stop talking about the conference as a whole from how well organised it was to how amazing all the talks were.  Congratulations to Claire for such a brilliant inaugural nanotechnology event.  I hope it’s the start of something that can happen frequently!

Have you brought back any specific knowledge that has benefited your research?

I have pages and pages of notes from talks! The amount of knowledge that I gained from the conference was amazing! It was such a great learning experience for me. I cannot wait to go to my next conference to build on my knowledge and hopefully be able to apply it in my research.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

The EACR staff at the event were AMAZING. I had the pleasure of sitting with them at the conference dinner and they were all very engaging, friendly and great at their jobs. I really wanted to mention how hard they all worked and just thank them for such a brilliant conference!

2Aria Ahmed-Cox, PhD Student

Home institution: Children’s Cancer Institute Australia; UNSW Sydney, Australia

Nano-sized particles, “nanoparticles” offer promise as drug transporters which can deliver drugs directly to cancer cells, without harming normal cells. My research investigates how the physical properties of these nanoparticles may affect the way they enter cancer cells and tumours. By visualising nanoparticles as they are taken up into tumour cells, and measuring this uptake, I work collaboratively with the goal to improve nanoparticle designs for future cancer therapy.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

One aspect of the Nanotech in Cancer conference that really resonated with me was the open engagement of researchers to discuss some of the latest advances and, also, the challenges in the field; from fundamental science through to clinical translation. The environment was always one of epistemic interest and inclusiveness.

Aria Ahmed-Cox
Aria presenting her proffered paper talk
Were there any social/networking highlights you want to tell us about? 

The quality of internationally recognised keynote speakers was inspiring, especially at an inaugural conference series of its name. My personal highlights were Michelle Bradbury (MSKCC), Molly Stevens (Imperial College), Mark Dewhirst (Duke Medical Centre) and Twan Lammers (RWTH). All of whom gave engaging and provoking talks as signature researchers who traverse the “bench to bedside” landscape of bio-nano research.

However, I was surprised by how much I also enjoyed the “Meet the Expert” seminar. Caroline Dive gave an honest and humorous recount of her personal and professional journey. It was both motivating and humbling, and I would enjoy attending a similar session at future conferences.

It really made the whole journey very worthwhile

Did you take part in any interesting local/cultural activities in your free time outside of the conference?

The conference’s location in Cambridge, UK gave me the opportunity to meet my distant English relatives and explore some heritage sites including Ely Cathedral and Kings College Chapel. The history of Cambridge as well as my professional and personal connections in England have been an absolute pleasure to immerse myself in.

How has the conference inspired you in your research? 

The opportunity to share some of my research and gain advice and constructive feedback was truly incredible. I most certainly came back with some new ideas and am excited to get stuck into lab work to flesh these out.

Aria Ahmed-Cox
Aria and her second cousin visiting Ely Cathedral
When you got home, is there anything from the conference that you immediately wanted to tell your colleagues about? What was it?

So many things sprung to mind! Of course, some of the scientific content came up for my colleagues (exosome bioreactors, 3D bioprinting, translatable models). However, it was also the small anecdotes that stuck in my mind; talking science over breakfast, how approachable some amazing researchers were and their willingness to share advice and resources. It really made the whole journey very worthwhile.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

I want to express my gratitude again to the conference organisers and the EACR for giving me this unique opportunity. Looking forward to the next EACR Nanotechnology in Cancer conference series.

3Cara Moloney, PhD Student

Home institution: University College Dublin, Ireland

My research focuses on the development of magnetic liposomes (MNLPs), consisting of magnetic core and a lipidic coating, rendering them MRI trackable and increasing their bioavailability. There are currently several lipidic chemotherapeutic carriers on the market such as Doxil®. However, not all tumours are ‘leaky’ enough to benefit from nanoparticle therapy and severe side effects are often observed as the chemotherapeutic agent does not reach the tumour. The application of these MRI trackable carriers could enable clinicians to confirm uptake of nanoparticle formulation in the tumour before treating with chemotherapeutic agents and hence could improve treatment.

The conference has inspired me further to pursue a career in cancer research

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this conference. It was very well organised. The quality of the work presented by both the keynote speakers and the proffered papers were brilliant. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Meet the Expert’ session with Caroline Dive. It provided great insight into some of the challenges encountered on a career path through science, particularly for women. The talk emphasised the need for certain skills and traits, such as a ‘rhino skin’, and their importance in a research career. I found the talk very encouraging and it has strengthened my resolve to pursue a career in cancer research.

Cara Moloney
Cara in the lab
How has the conference inspired you in your research?

The conference has inspired me further to pursue a career in cancer research. It was great to see how some nanotechnologies can be very beneficial in cancer treatments and how there are a wide range of technologies which can be pursued. The results of the other researchers were very encouraging. It opened my eyes to some areas of interest which could be investigated in both my own work and for the research being carried out within my group. I also received some excellent questions and suggestions from fellow researchers at my poster, some of which we had not considered. These have encouraged me to expand the scope of my current research.

Were there any social/networking highlights you want to tell us about?

The poster sessions at the conference were very well organised and gave ample time for discussions with the other researchers. It was great to see what other research groups are investigating and to get suggestions for my own research. It also gave me the opportunity to network with researchers from other universities with similar research interests. I was able to discuss the possibility of possible collaborations or post-doctoral positions in the future. The conference gave me the opportunity to meet and swap contact information with other great researchers that I would like to work with in the future that I would not have had the chance to meet otherwise.

Cara Moloney
Cara exploring Cambridge
When you got home, is there anything from the conference that you immediately wanted to tell your colleagues about? What was it?

The calibre and extent of the work being out currently in cancer research with nanotechnology is extremely impressive. The conference highlighted this. I gave a brief overview of the topics covered to my lab mates and presented some of the papers which were relevant to our work, particularly the work of Claire Wilhelm which matches up well with some of the aims of the other members in my research group. We also discussed some of the novel nanotechnologies which were presented at the conference that I found interesting.

4Marco Cordani, Postdoctoral researcher

Home institution: IMDEA Nanociencia, Spain

My current research are focused to find a novel treatment for pancreatic cancer, a terrible disease with a very low outcome and without efficacy therapeutic treatments. To reach this very ambitious aim, I am establishing a therapeutic CRISPR/Cas9 system for gene editing of mutated TP53, which encode for an oncogenic p53 protein responsible of malignancy phenotype of pancreatic cancer. Moreover, in order to apply this powerful gene editing tool in in vivo applications and to the clinical practice, I’m also establishing a delivery system based on gold nanoparticles for its effective and targeted delivery to the cancer cells.

This nascent scientific interaction may represent a turning point of my career

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

For me, the personal highlight of the meeting has been during the dinner. Indeed, I was sat in front of the scientific committee and I felt very lucky to have had the chance to interact with them. I found them very nice people, who represent my maximum personal and professional objective to reach. We interacted in a relaxed manner, and they gave me some suggestions on how to address the challenges that occur during my route.

Were there any social/networking highlights you want to tell us about?

During the meeting I had the pleasure of speaking with a lab head from a top level French institution about a future collaboration. We discussed a potential project that might arise, and we agreed regarding my future short visits in her lab. This nascent scientific interaction may represent a turning point of my career since it may open me new horizons from which my career and life could benefit.

Marco Cordani
Marco giving his 3-minute Poster Spotlight presentation
How was this conference different from others you have attended?

This conference has been different from other ones that I attended. Indeed, it grouped the most important Europeans personalities about cancer nanotechnology, the topic that I am currently working on. Moreover, the environment was very relaxed and informal, with extremely high scientific levels. Also, the organization was very nice, since several breaks were planned with delicious healthy snacks and meals. Furthermore, the people who organized the meeting were very friendly and extremely responsive to the emails.

When you got home, is there anything from the conference that you immediately wanted to tell your colleagues about?

I will encourage my lab colleagues to become members of the EACR society. I think it is the best scientific society for those researchers who work in the field of cancer research. Moreover, I will stress the youngest researchers (Master and PhD students, as well as earliest postdoc) about the fundamental importance that plays to assist to some meeting and conferences (at least 1 per year). In this manner it is possible interact with the vibrant scientific community and this might be a strong benefit for the career. Additionally, I noted that many PIs were offering several job positions in their own labs. Contacting them directly on the site would represent an advantage respect to the dozens of mails that they receive.

5Miguel Fuzeta, PhD Student

Home institution: Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon, Portugal

I am developing a new platform for cancer therapy. The goal of my PhD thesis is to use nanoparticles naturally released by cells, called extracellular vesicles, to target cancer cells and deliver anticancer drugs to them, in order to kill tumours more efficiently. For that purpose, a manufacturing process was developed, in order to produce these nanoparticles from human stem cells, called mesenchymal stem/stromal cells. These cells are placed in a vessel with an agitation system, called Vertical-Wheel bioreactor, which allows a better and more robust production of these nanoparticles.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

There were two really inspiring talks: One from Molly Stevens, who gave an enthusiastic overview of her amazing and diverse research. Caroline Dive also gave a fantastic talk, really personal and emotional. She showed that everyone goes through rough periods, even when they end up being successful. We are all human beings after all.

Were there any social/networking highlights you want to tell us about?

I established lots of contacts with colleagues in my field of research. One of the most relevant contacts I was able to establish, was with a group leader who runs a lab working on the same topic as I am, using complementary approaches. I hope it will turn into a collaboration someday.

Nanotechnology in Cancer
The Scientific Programme Committee and Meeting Bursary Recipients (left to right): Claire Wilhelm, Kostas Kostarelos, Aria Ahmed-Cox, Marco Cordani, Miguel Fuzeta, Ana Matos, Cara Moloney, Pankhuri Narula, Angela Pine, Caroline Dive, Raymond Schiffelers
How was this conference different from others you have attended?

This conference was ideally sized and focused on my research topic. This allowed to get in touch with most of the researchers attending the meeting, truly understand what they are working on and share research experiences.

the conference had a really friendly and positive atmosphere

Did you take part in any interesting local/cultural activities in your free time outside of the conference?

I visited the famous Eagle pub in Cambridge, where Watson and Crick developed some of their theories and announced the discovery of the DNA structure. I also walked through the city centre with some of my colleagues. We were able to see Cambridge’s picturesque streets, King’s College and its beautiful canal.

How has the conference inspired you in your research? 

This conference made me realise I was part of something bigger than my own research group back home. I felt like part of this enthusiastic community studying nanotechnology to fight cancer.

Miguel Fuzeta
Miguel at King’s College
When you got home, is there anything from the conference that you immediately wanted to tell your colleagues about? What was it?

I immediately told my colleagues about my oral presentation, that Cambridge was an amazing academic city. I also visited the pub where Watson and Crick developed some of their theories and announced the discovery of the DNA structure.

Have you brought back any specific knowledge that has benefited your research? Tell us about it.

I brought some contacts and feedback from my work that will surely be beneficial for my research.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

The chosen venue was amazing. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to visit the University of Cambridge and have such interesting scientific discussions in such a remarkable place in the history of science. Moreover, the conference had a really friendly and positive atmosphere, prone to fruitful discussions and the establishment of new collaborations. All of this was completed with an amazing work from the organizing team, making this weekend a really enjoyable one.

6Ana Matos, PhD Student

Home institution: Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

Since 2015, I have been deeply involved in my PhD project that aims to develop a nanoplatform for colorectal cancer immunotherapy and drug delivery. This project is focused on the design of two types of polymeric nanoparticles able to carry different active molecules and to target and modulate distinct cell populations within the tumor microenvironment. This innovative nanoplatform will lead to a safe multivalent nanomedicine able to modulate tumor microenvironment by combining the effect of a cytotoxic drug at cancer site with a multi-targeted immunotherapy. The overall outcome can constitute a real hope for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer disease.

The overall experience was awesome

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you? Were there any social/networking highlights you want to tell us about?

The relaxed and casual environment of Nanotechnology in Cancer 2019 was an excellent opportunity for me as a PhD student to meet, share and discuss my work with other scientific researchers working in the field of innovative cancer research combined with nanotechnology. In addition to all interesting talks from the most experienced sharks in this area, I also found a very interesting works presented as poster. This conference was also the precursor of informal networks which led to the possible establishment of a new scientific collaborations.

Ana Matos
Ana in the lab
How was this conference different from others you have attended?

The conference provided a great chance for graduate students, post-docs, and early-career scientists, with different levels of knowledge and expertise, to get involved in a highly-stimulating and gratifying scientific environment. Particularly for PhD students, this conference is a great opportunity to increase the scientific background in cancer nanotechnology.

How has the conference inspired you in your research? Have you brought back any specific knowledge that has benefited your research?

The conference allowed me to present my unpublished work with worldwide team leaders of cancer nanotechnology scientific community. It resulted in the scientific discussion of some great ideas to improve strategies already defined. The hot topic of this conference was mostly based on emerging therapeutic combinations (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy) against different cancer types, at pre-clinical and clinical levels. This subject of current interest fits perfectly my interdisciplinary PhD project aiming the development of novel therapeutic vaccines and targeted chemotherapy. It is where nanotechnology and cancer immunology are used to design an optimal combinatorial approach against colorectal cancer.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

The overall experience was awesome.

7Pankhuri Narula, PhD Student

Home institution: Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India

Glioblastoma (GBM) is one of the primary causes for high rate of morbidities and mortalities in the current scenario. There is always a need of improved therapeutic strategies due to emergence of resistance towards the present treatments. RNAi is emerging therapeutic tool against cancer. miRNA based therapies are generally restricted due to their cell impermeable nature. Therefore tagging/linking them with cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) can increase their therapeutic value. In this study Tachyplesin is linked to anti-miR210 to form a nanocomplex and delivered inside the GBM cells. Once inside the cells the complex was found to have significant anti-cancer activity by affecting various hallmarks of cancer. Thereby we can use CPPs as a strategy to deliver miRNAs for effective RNAi based therapeutic strategy.

The real life struggle stories of the scientists were very inspiring

Pankhuri Narula
Pankhuri in the lecture hall
What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

The close-knit interaction session with the people and scientists present.

How has the conference inspired you in your research?

The conference talks and discussions opened various avenues and insights into the area of nanotechnology in cancer. All the talk sessions were quite encouraging. The real life struggle stories of the scientists were very inspiring.

When you got home, is there anything from the conference that you immediately wanted to tell your colleagues about? What was it?

The conference was held at the beautiful place and the organisation of the same is beyond words. The award of the bursary was also another encouraging factor.

Pankhuri Narula
Pankhuri (right) at the conference dinner
Have you brought back any specific knowledge that has benefited your research? Tell us about it.

The methods and knowledge of translating the in vitro work to in vivo and then ultimately for the clinical stages is one. The lectures told us how to plan and set up things taking into consideration the clinical setup. The stability and toxicity factors are other topics which were well covered and the points made regarding them are very useful and can be incorporated easily in my research work.