We met in Dublin, Ireland for the EACR-AACR-IACE conference How to Bring Basic Science Discoveries to the Clinic March 2024. The conference was praised by participants for its rich scientific programme and ample networking opportunities.

We were delighted to award several Travel Grants to help cancer researchers in need of financial assistance to attend the event.

Read on to learn about their experience of the conference.

1Dina Baier

PhD Student, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, University of Vienna, Austria

Research: Leading anticancer ruthenium complex KP1339/BOLD-100, evaluated in global clinical phase-II studies, was developed for improved tumour-targeting reducing side effects. Mechanistically, BOLD-100 is delivered to the tumour by binding patients’ serum albumin. Intracellularly, BOLD-100 induces stress leading to cancer cell death. Resistance development limits effective cancer therapy, often determined by tumor microenvironment-resident cells. Our studies uncover novel activities of BOLD-100 and unravel molecular mechanisms driving resistance. BOLD-100 is a multi-faceted cancer-metabolism-regulating drug targeting glycolysis and lipid metabolism translating into epigenetic deregulation, with potential to shape microenvironment cells. These findings aid improvement of therapeutic regimens to enhance BOLD-100 activity and overcome resistance.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

My personal highlight was the discussion of political aspects and controversial topics in science. Exemplarily, it was questioned whether animal models sufficiently reflect the patient situation and strategies were provided on how in vivo testing could be improved in a talk given by Prof. Annette Byrne. I appreciate that the EACR gives space for thought and a platform to challenge existing dogmas and concepts.

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

In my free time, I joined a walking tour with a local guide to explore the history and cultural aspects of Dublin. During the tour, I learned about the invasion of Ireland by the British Empire, several wars and the Easter Rising in 1916, the Great Hunger, the history of Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement I knew already from the talks of Satish Gopal, M.D., M.P.H. and Prof. Mark Lawler about “The Health Dividend of Peace” outlining the importance of transnational and intra-institutional collaboration since “disease knows no borders”.

How has the conference inspired you in your research?

The conference clearly demonstrated importance of the tumour metabolism and crosstalk with cells of the tumour microenvironment for successful cancer therapy. This encourages me to focus my research and future scientific development further in this direction to contribute to understanding of underlying molecular mechanisms of tumour-immune-microenvironment regulations, the crosstalk of immune cells with diseases (e.g., cancer), and responses to (anticancer) therapeutics. Additionally, this bears potential to better understand and avoid therapy-related side effects.

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

Several talks and keynote lectures presented resources and data collections that could be used for omics approaches and computational analyses. For example, Henry Rodriguez , Ph.D., M.S., M.B.A. informed about the NCI data collection and Prof. Joanna Joyce presented the “1.000 protein array for secretome analyses” providing data for potential future collaborations. I was very happy to learn about these repositories that could be utilised by my team.

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2Ellie Sweatman

PhD student, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Research: PARP inhibitors are drugs used to treat some specific cancer types, however, not all patients respond well to treatment. Currently, clinicians do not have effective methods to predict which patients will benefit from this treatment. I am studying a potential new marker of response to PARP inhibitor treatment, called SETD1A. I have shown low levels of SETD1A leads to poorer response to PARP inhibitor treatment in some cancer types. Through my research I aim to understand the role of SETD1A in response to PARP inhibitor treatment and which cancer types this could apply to.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

My personal conference highlight was having the opportunity to present my poster discussing the role of the lysine methyltransferase SETD1A in PARP inhibitor resistance. I was extremely pleased that my poster received interest from other attendees which lead to insightful discussions and feedback. As this was the first time, I had presented my work at an in-person conference this gave me valuable experience to improve my public speaking and scientific communication skills. Additionally, attending this conference alone without the support of my other lab members or supervisor really helped me to build my confidence with networking and starting discussions with people.

How was this conference different from others you have attended?

This conference was different from others I have attended in the past as it was my first in-person international meeting. Previously I have attended smaller national conferences with a narrower subject specific focus. The breadth of topics covered at this conference really broadened my understanding for subjects outside of my specific area of study and allowed me to visualise my work in the wider context of cancer research.

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

I was lucky enough to stay a couple of days in Dublin after the conference. Being my first time to visit Dublin, I made sure to do as much sight-seeing as possible. I visited the National Gallery of Ireland which is home to works by the likes of Rembrandt, Picasso, and Degas along with the ‘Dead Zoo’ where I saw the giant Irish deer. And of course, I couldn’t miss out on a visit to the famous Temple bar. But the highlight of my trip was visiting the Book of Kells exhibition and the long room at Trinity College. I was in awe of the history and artistry on display here. During my visit to Ireland, I also became very partial to a bag of Tayto crisps.

How has this conference inspired you in your research?

The meet the expert talk from Tracy Robson was very inspirational from the point of view of a being a woman in science. Seeing how she has progressed her career in cancer research has given me inspiration to continue pursuing this career path. Secondly, I was fascinated by Rene Bernards talk on drug combination to harness hyperactivation of oncogenic signalling pathways as a paradoxical cancer intervention. This talk reminded me to always think outside of the box and how the best discoveries in science are often unexpected. Finally, I have come away from this conference with a greater appreciation of the steps required to take research from the bench to the clinic and the challenges associated with this.

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3Carly Burmeister

PhD Student, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Research: My research investigates how repeated infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer. To do this, we explore the relationship between HPV and human (host) factors as it is only with the help of factors in human cells that HPV can result in cancer. Once we have a better understanding of this virus/host relationship and the key cellular factors involved in cervical cancer progression, we then look at cheap, commercially available non-cancer drugs that show anti-cancer activity via the relationships we uncover. This enables cost-effective, targeted therapy to treat even the poorest women suffering from this disease.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

A highlight for me would be that I had some very interesting conversations with researchers at the conference and there were some very interesting and insightful talks that I thoroughly enjoyed. Personally, I was very proud of myself for traveling all the way to Ireland from Cape Town to attend this conference and present my research. Majority of researchers that attended the conference did not come from far, and many of them came in groups or with colleagues and collaborators. This did make interacting with other attendees slightly more challenging, but I did manage to get out of my comfort zone and use the opportunity to network.

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

I was very excited about a person who visited my poster at the conference. He was from the ATCC booth and we had an in-depth discussion on where to go next with cancer research in Africa, particularly for my laboratory. Due to his background in disease in Africa, he was able to engage with me at a very high level which I was impressed by and I hope this is the start of a fruitful collaboration.

How has the conference inspired you in your research?

This conference gave me immense perspective on the challenges faced in the cancer arena. Coming from Africa, I have a deep appreciation for the funding and accessibility constraints that are faced in the global south and despite the increased pool of funding and access that is available in the global north, a major challenge that speakers talked about was funding. Not only was this surprising to me, but this made me feel very proud of the way we as Africans overcome our challenges and how we “make a plan” with what we have. This conference also provided insight into the possibility that reaching out and initiating collaborations on a more global scale can take research and development to the next level and put Africa on the map when it comes to the field of cancer.

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

I was definitely excited to tell my colleagues about how much opportunity is out there that we have access to if we extended our horizons slightly further. I was also excited to tell them about some of the therapies that were spoken about during the conference that will instil more confidence in our research. Drugging the undruggable was an integral session at the conference for me personally as this is where mine and my lab’s research interest is. The focus in the global north when it comes to treatment is targeted, effectives therapies, but the global south has an added challenge which is the cost-effective aspect of treatment. Again, it made me very proud of the work we have done and what we are pursuing in the global south in the cancer arena. I was excited to share this with my colleagues.

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

Yes, there were some interesting inhibitors that are being used in the field which I have now enquired about for our research. Additionally, we also focus on drug combinations in our lab so a lot of the combinations used for various cancers that I learnt about through the conference, could be worth looking into for the cancers we investigate. There were also some industry booths that I didn’t know about and we could utilise their services. I found the conference a great networking opportunity.

Interested in EACR Conferences and further Travel Grants?

We organise a variety of excellent cancer research conferences, both in person and virtual, where the latest research topics and interaction for participants are the very highest priorities.

To assist researchers who need financial assistance to attend our in-person conferences, we offer EACR-Worldwide Cancer Research Travel Grants. Recipients also get the opportunity to present their work as an oral or poster presentation. Each Travel Grant includes a free registration and funds to support travel and accommodation costs.

Make sure you add the dates of upcoming EACR Conferences to your diary now. Don’t forget we offer EACR member discounts on all of our registration fees!