Want to find out more about the EACR conference on Mechanisms to Therapies: Innovations in Cancer Metabolism? You can read our Conference Review here.

1Tin Lok Wong, Postdoctoral Fellow

Tin Lok Wong in the lab

Home institution and country: University of Hong Kong

Cancer cells have a special appetite towards nutrients than normal cells, and one of the well-known differences is the desire for glucose. To acquire the ability to ‘eat’ more glucose, cancer cells increase the amount of enzymes involved in glycolysis, the process of which glucose is broken down to generate energy. One way to do so is by methylation of the regulating proteins, which means an addition of CH3 molecule to the protein, and this changes its activity or stability. Understanding this methylation process can help to reverse the disrupted glycolysis and starved the cancer cells to death.

talks were truly inspiring

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

I am very excited to meet top scientists in the field, e.g. Prof William Kaelin, Jr. and Prof Karen Vousden. Their talks were truly inspiring. I am particularly amused by Prof Karen Vousden that even with so much evidence and knowledge on p53 as a tumor suppressor, she is still redefining the role p53 in cancer as a tumor oncogene. The courage and persistent to stand against well-known evidence to redefine a new role of p53 in cancer is admiring.

How was this conference different from others you have attended?

This conference is very different from other conference I attended, e.g. AACR annual meeting, that it provides lots of opportunity to meet the experts. The lunch with the experts provide an excellent chance to talk to speakers in an informal setting. The short presentations of poster spotlights give a brief idea on some of the best poster abstract and invoke more question on the poster.

lectures have given me a lot of ideas to fit into my own research project

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

Knowing Bilbao is known for the art museum and Basque food, I went to the Guggenheim Museum and Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao to visit some inspiring modern art. As it was the first time I have been to Bilbao, I have never thought so many talent artists were originated from here. The receptionist of the hotel I was staying suggested various restaurant to enjoy good food and I had a very good time enjoying some of the best Basque food such as Bacalao a la bizkaia, and of course some excellent Spanish wine.

How has the conference inspired you in your research?

As relatively new to cancer metabolism, the lectures have obviously inspired me a lot. I learned a lot about experimental setup and more importantly how to ask and answer a research question. The lecture by Prof William Kaelin, Jr touched on the importance of rescue experiments and use of proper controls to avoid observing nonspecific effect. Several lectures had inspired me on translating basic research to potential therapies. As being in a group focusing mainly on basic research, I lack the experience and opportunity to learn translating research outcome. Those lectures have given me a lot of ideas to fit into my own research project, as well as starting a new project.

2Lorea Valcarcel Jimenez, Postdoctoral researcher

Lorea Valcarcel Jimenez in the lab

Home institution and country: CICbiogune, Spain/MRC Cancer Unit, UK

My main research interest is to decipher how a normal cell turns in to a cancer cell. In particular, I find very intriguing the metabolic rewiring that cancer cells undergo in order to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and metastasize. Understanding how tumour cells modify the metabolic landscape could help to develop new therapies to target it specifically.

One of the main highlights of the conference for me was the list of speakers that took part in it. The contribution to science was astonishing.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

One of the main highlights of the conference for me was the list of speakers that took part in it. The contribution to science was astonishing. Moreover, they gave an up-to-date view in cancer metabolism mechanisms, especially in metastasis. In particular, I would mentioned the keynote lecture given by Karen Vousden, who has been a scientific reference to me and with whom I was able to speak during the coffee breaks.

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

During the conference I was able to attend a “meeting with the editor” talk. I really liked the talk as he is an editor in one of the main translational journals: Nature medicine. He gave us some ideas about how a job as an editor was. Moreover, he resolved some questions that we found conflictive and how was a transition from being a post-doctoral scientist to an editor.

How was this conference different from others you have attended?

From a scientific point of view, this conference allowed me to increase my networking skills and to interact with top scientist with whom I could collaborate. Moreover, having the opportunity to receive such great pieces of advice from them is invaluable. Moreover, the coffee breaks and the poster session were organized in a way that favour the scientific discussions and networking.

It has offered me the possibility to meet top scientists with whom I could collaborate and work

Lorea Valcarcel Jimenez at the conference
Lorea Valcarcel Jimenez at the conference
How has the conference inspired you in your research?

I could get a lot of ideas from most of the talks. It was incredible as even being different topics, I could clearly see the interaction between them. Also, during the poster session I could get some ideas for my own experiments, with newly described inhibitors that I could benefit from. Moreover, I could speak with other young scientist in order to develop new ideas that could be included in our research fields.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

I would like to mention that this conference has not only been of great interest to me, but it has also helped me to develop new networking skills. It has offered me the possibility to meet top scientists with whom I could collaborate and work. Also, I would like to remark the great effort that the EACR does in order to offer fellowships as the one I received. Thank you very much for improving science communication and spreading in Europe!

3Mattia Falcone, PhD Student

Mattia Falcone in the lab

Home institution and country: DKFZ, Germany

I am working on the stem cells of acute myeloid leukaemia. These cells are responsible for the patients’ relapse and my project aims to identify new molecular target in order to eradicate them allowing long-term remission. We demonstrated that the first enzyme of the branched chain amino acids degradation pathway plays a fundamental role in maintaining the stemness of the leukemic stem cells by affecting their epigenetic landscape.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

Is not only one, but at least two. I was extremely happy to finally attend the presentations from William Kaelin and Matt Vander Heiden, which I never heard before. They gave outstanding talks about where the field is moving now and about their great research.

the community is very open to collaborate and share ideas and data

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

In the last two years of PhD I have been attending many conferences and lately I started looking for post-doc positions in Europe. This conference was a great opportunity for me since I had the chance to get to know some European PI that I’ve never met like Salvador Aznar-Benitah, which could be a potential future lab to apply for. Moreover I also had the chance to meet old friends and get to know new people to collaborate with and to share knowledge.

How was this conference different from others you have attended?

This is my 4th conference about cancer metabolism and what I like about this topic is that the community is very open to collaborate and share ideas and data. Furthermore, also the PIs are happy to talk with us, PhDs not only about science, but also to give us advise for our future career. This EACR conference was my first one and I am going back home full of new ideas about possible follow-up for my current project and new directions for the upcoming applications for post-doc positions. I think was very well organized with long poster session during the day that allowed me to talk with colleagues and group leaders and last but not least, Bilbao itself had also an impact on all these things since I was able to meet the participants in an informal way outside for a tapas. I will definitely come back the next time.

The PIs are happy to talk with us PhDs, not only about science, but also to give us advise for our future career

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

Was my first time in the north of Spain and I liked very much Bilbao. It is an amazing city with a very outstanding taste for food and culture. I had the chance to hang out with the other scientists for pintxos and wine and also had the time to visit the Guggenheim museum, which was extremely beautiful.

How has the conference inspired you in your research?

The conference committee awarded me by giving me the opportunity to present my work as short talk the first day of the conference. This was a great chance that made me discuss afterwards with the other participants and some group leader about the open questions of my research. I got many feedbacks, which will help me in carrying out experiments before finishing the PhD.

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

One more I would definitely tell them to look for any correlation/implication of their project with metabolism! In my lab we work on stem cells and cancer and is clear that metabolism plays a fundamental role in regulating crucial processes in maintaining stemness. In this way I could share my knowledge and expertise helping my colleagues in investigating this fascinating topic.

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

After my presentation I was stopped by other scientists for more questions and feedbacks and I was very happy to get some from William Kaelin. He was suggesting me some experiments about our findings on HIF1a, which I will definitely try to carry out.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

I would like to thank again the organizers and the evaluation committee for this great opportunity. I wouldn’t be able otherwise to attend this great meeting.

4Victoire Gouirand, PhD Student

Victoire Gouirand in the lab

Home institution and country: Cancer Research Center of Marseille, France

During pancreatic cancer progression, a metabolic reprogramming due to an increase of fibrosis and a poor vascularization occurred; this caused a decrease of nutrient and oxygen to tumor cell. In the lab, I’m studying metabolic reprogramming, related to amino acids. I have identified a deregulation of leucine catabolism and ketone bodies formation from the early stages to the late stages of PDAC progression. Using engineered mouse models of PDAC, gene silencing and metabolic tracing tools, I’ve showed that alteration of leucine catabolism through the HMGCL (key enzyme) abolition reduces oncogenic functions and PDAC growth and dissemination.

Thanks to the conference, I have a proposition of a post-doctoral position

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

Coming to this conference was important for me:

  1. For the speakers present in the meeting.
  2. Because I wanted to present my almost finish work to the scientific community to have a feedback. That was the case.
  3. I wanted to meet different PI for a post doc position in the future.
Were there any social/networking highlights you want to tell us about?

During this conference, I met two PI of laboratory who interested me to continue in post doctorate. Even, if one didn’t have available position, thanks to the conference, I have a proposition of a post-doctoral position.  Also, I met some work collaborators to speak about our work. And I had the opportunity to present my poster to editors.

Victoire Gouirand at the conference
Victoire Gouirand at the conference
How was this conference different from others you have attended?

For me this conference was an amazing experience. Actually, I couldn’t assist to AACR due to a financial aspect, but I didn’t regret because the EACR have lot of speaker in common and some European too. I was really glad to meet this prestigious public and present my poster front some of them.

beautiful meeting with other scientists

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

Except Gala diner which allowed me to meet new people in a good atmosphere, I visited Bilbao with friends from conference coming from France and USA. We didn’t have time to visit Guggenheim, but the town is still beautiful and people so nice.

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

When I got home, I spoke of the different talks more than posters, to explain some interesting finding and experiments used and shown during the conference. Also I told to everyone how I was happy to listen data not already published as shown by Dr. Sarah Maria Fendt.  Actually, we previously worked on proline and collagen in PDAC in same time than her lab. I was impressed to see the continuity of their work on collagen and the quantity of work provided. That was very inspiring.

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

I brought back to this conference different knowledge about molecular aspect and experiment design. This, help me to design new experiment and analyse some of mine differently. By this way I’m almost sure to improve the scientific level of our manuscript. Then, have the opinion of scientific community directly about our work, help us to have some new perspective for future project.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

I was glad to participate to EACR meeting for all the reasons mention before, the beautiful meeting with other scientists, and the amazing organization. My only little regret about the conference was to not have time to see all posters which I want during the poster session. For my part, I’ll want to have longer poster session to discuss with more.

5Arthur Dyer, PhD Student

Arthur Dyer in the lab

Home institution and country: University of Oxford, UK

A conference focussing on the latest innovations and findings in the field of cancer metabolism presenting a variety of different targets and mechanisms to target and alter cancer metabolism. Presentations often focussed on routes to the clinics or early animal trials and a large portion of the work presented was unpublished novel work. The conference provided a great opportunity to network with set sessions for this and a friendly atmosphere encouraging collaboration and scientific discussions.

a really brilliant opportunity and a great conference to attend as it introduced me to a broad range of topics

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

The sessions focussed on the following aspects of cancer metabolism: oncogenic metabolic signalling, metabolic wiring in cancer, metabolic control of the epigenome, metabolism in tumour progression, targeting stroma metabolism and a session on moving research from bench to bedside. Alongside the sessions were two poster defence sessions and a “meet the editor” session where doctoral candidates and postdocs got the opportunity to meet with an senior editor at Nature Communications” and discuss their job and publishing in general. The talk that was a particular highlight to me was from Prof Karen Vousden on the role of P53 in metabolism as her work has, and continues to, shape a lot of cancer research across the world.

Arthur Dyer with poster
Arthur Dyer presenting his poster at the conference
Were there any social/networking highlights you want to tell us about?

The conference, whilst focussing on metabolism in a cancer setting, highlighted in particular science that was either moving into clinical therapies or was in clinical trials. There was a wide variety of talks from a broad range of countries. The speakers focussed on a wide range of topics and were presented by researchers at various different stages of their research careers. This mix of attendees and presenters was particularly helpful with networking. The organisers of this conference aimed to provide an environment where collaboration and networking could occur and, as scientist that is early on in my career and new to the topics of metabolism, this was a really brilliant opportunity and a great conference to attend as it introduced me to a broad range of topics.

How has the conference inspired you in your research?

I have begun the process of initiating several collaborations which will benefit my research hugely.

This conference was a fantastic learning experience for me as I have newly embarked on research into the field of cancer metabolism. Many of the presentations presented unpublished work and this was particularly exciting as it created an environment where researchers freely presented novel work at the forefront of cancer metabolism. Because a broad range of different metabolites were studied by a large number or presenters, they all presented introductions to their particular pathways of interests which helped broaden my overall understanding of not only metabolism but cancer metabolism, immuno-metabolism and cancer treatment in general. Many researchers presented novel techniques which were of great interest to me and after the lectures I approached several researchers to enquire about their novel techniques. As a results of these discussions, I have begun the process of initiating several collaborations which will benefit my research hugely.

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

During the conference I was able to speak to many researchers at different stages of their research careers and the organisers of the conference went out of their way to provide an environment where researchers of all career stages were able to collaborate and network. Of particular interest to me was the chance to talk to Professor Heather Cristofk. Her work has informed and aided my own research and she is a very inspirational woman in the fields of virology, oncology and metabolism with a brilliant publishing record.

6Andreia Almeida Henriques, PhD Student

Home institution and country: Biosystems and Integrative Sciences Institute, Portugal

It is known that cancer cells demand an increased amount of sugar (glucose) to sustain their fast proliferation and growth. If we understand why and how this process is regulated, it might be possible to specifically inhibit cancer cell growth. In my work I want to understand how cells regulate the uptake of glucose by phosphorylation networks through the identification of phosphorylation sites. Using mutants of specific phosphosites, we intend to prove their importance and try to understand their position in the network of interacting proteins that regulate the first step of metabolism, the glucose uptake.

This work is a connection between my current project and my colleagues’ projects back in the lab so after the presentation I immediately talked with my colleagues.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

Mechanisms to Therapies: Innovations in Cancer Metabolism was a great conference and personally I was very glad for the laid back meet the experts lunch. It was great to be able to spend some relaxed time with the expert of our choice that shown availability and sympathy throughout all the event.

How has the conference inspired you in your research?

This conference has been a great opportunity to show the results obtained during my PhD and receive feedback and new ideas from renowned researchers. Considering I am in my final year of PhD studies, all the opportunities to discuss my work are precious. I obtained several suggestions of experiments to perform and some hints about data interpretation to guide my results to metabolism.

Andreia Almeida Henriques
Andreia Almeida Henriques receiving her Meeting Bursary certificate from Navdeep Chandel
Did you take part in any interesting local/cultural activities in your free time outside of the conference?

Bilbao is a beautiful city and apart from the conference I had the chance to taste the gastronomy of the Basque region including the famous pintxos. The visit through the Nervión River shore led to the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum and I had the surprise of finding a temporary exposition of a Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, I’m Your Mirror.

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

The talk from Cristina Muñoz Pinedo was a surprise, first because it was a last-minute presentation, so I had no access to the abstract and mostly because of its content. In her work she integrates glucose deprivation with transcription alterations and pro-tumorigenic chemokines expression increase. This work is a connection between my current project and my colleagues’ projects back in the lab so after the presentation I immediately talked with my colleagues.