Virtual Defence is the Best Attack 2021: A Participant’s View

In February 2021, we held a 2-day virtual conference on the the topic of Immuno-Oncology. If you woud like to know more about the meeting, you can read the Virtual Defence is the Best Attack conference review here.

Worldwide Cancer ResearchWe awarded two EACR-Worldwide Cancer Research Meeting Bursaries to assist members of the European Association for Cancer Research based in countries with low- and middle-income economies, as defined by the World Bank, to attend the conference. For virtual events, each Meeting Bursary gives a full free registration. You can read their reports here.


1Vinodh Kumar Selvaraj

Job title: Radiation Oncology Resident
Home institute: Department of Radiation Oncology, Basavatarakam Indo-American Cancer Hospital & Research Institute, Hyderabad, India
Research: I am interested in clinical research on stereotactic high dose radiotherapy and immunotherapy in solid malignancies.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

My personal favourite was the opening talk given by Professor Johanna Joyce on the brain tumour microenvironment. It really set the tone for the conference. The topics presented in the conference were engaging and informative. Insights on major immunotherapy breakthroughs in animal models, difficulties faced, and potential targets for cancer treatment were the highlights of the conference.

I would strongly recommend all clinicians interested in immunotherapy to attend

How was this conference different from others you have attended?

The virtual relay was seamless and interactive

Being a clinician, the conferences that I attend are majorly focussed on clinical trials and current treatment evidence. On the contrary, this conference gave me a first look into future cancer therapies. The comprehensive discussion on basic science, experimental study data, and clinical application made this conference stand-out. Thus, it caters to a wider section of audiences from cancer researchers to clinicians at different levels of their career. The virtual poster presentation with the Gather software was another unique feature.

Vinodh KumarIs there anything from the conference that you immediately wanted to tell your colleagues about?

There were numerous key points discussed in the conference like tumour microenvironment, intrinsic immune mechanism, tumour heterogeneity and combination checkpoint blockade therapies. Professor Johanna Joyce’s talk on brain tumour microenvironment, and Professor Karin de Visser’s talk on immune landscape of metastatic breast cancer were interesting. I shared the points regarding difference in immune landscape of glioma & brain metastasis, and immune-enriched & immune-depleted p53 mutated breast cancer with my colleagues.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

The conference was well organized, the virtual relay was seamless and interactive. I am looking forward to attending the next edition of conference. I would strongly recommend all clinicians interested in immunotherapy to attend the same.

2Amira Salah El-Din Youssef

Job title: Lecturer (postdoc)
Home institute: National Cancer Institute, Cairo University, Egypt
Research: I participate in cancer research focused on finding some potential novel biomarkers that help in improving diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. Also, I am interested in studying the genetic background of HCC, CRC and other cancers. As well as this, I study viral pathogenesis and immunoregulation towards viral infections. This will help us find out which exact genes are involved in the cancer development pathway and to understand their exact roles in order to find a way to stop the disease.

This conference opened the gates for collaborations and exchanges of information between speakers all over the world.

How was this conference different from others you have attended?

This conference was well-organized and gave details about the most recent advances in the field of immunotherapy from the basic science to clinical studies including the identification of novel targets. Also, it highlighted the role of biomarkers of response to immunotherapy treatment e.g neoantigens, immune checkpoints, the interaction between the microbiome and the immune system as well as mechanisms of intrinsic and acquired resistance to immunotherapy. Moreover, this virtual conference emphasized on the most recent advances in the field of immunotherapy including CART-cells, vaccination and immunoediting.

Did you gain any specific knowledge that has benefited your research?

Yes, I have gained useful information about using predictive biomarkers for evaluating immunotherapy efficacy. Currently, I am working on exploring the mutational profile of DNA polymerases and MMR genes in tissue biopsies of Egyptian CRC patients at the multistage of disease progression. This may help in using ethnic-based personalized immunotherapy efficacy in those patients based on The DNA repair enzymes and MMR mutational profile.

What was a personal highlight of the conference for you?

I have gained a deeper understanding about the molecular mechanisms involved in the interaction between the tumour and the immune system and the revealing of attractive set of novel therapeutic approaches to treat cancer. Moreover, I met experts and important speakers in the field. This conference opened the gates for collaborations and exchanges of information between speakers all over the world.