We write to you today to thank everyone for participating in the Annual Cancer Center Scientific Retreat that was held July 11-12, 2013. We had a very nice turn out, and saw many new faces as well loyal long-term attendees.
In keeping with the momentum that was started with the "Impact of Genomics on Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment: Open Drug Policy Forum" in June, this year's retreat was organized around a broad theme of genomics. Our event kicked off in the best way possible with a keynote address by Kenna Shaw, the recent director and driver of The Cancer Genome Atlas, who offered insight into the incredible resources available through this NCI program. Dr. Shaw's slides, which will act as a primer on how to access these resources, are now available on our website. We are working on organizing a training session for those that want to learn more about accessing these resources.
After this great introduction, general session convened to allow attendees to enjoy a reception complete with core facility posters and networking. The retreat continued the next day where we explored broad, histology agnostic themes in cancer biology: academic drug development, neoplastic evolution, and precision medicine; genomics was a common thread through all the presentations and discussions.
In the Academic Drug Development (ADD) session, Goutham Narla presented a blow by blow account of his own experience with ADD, culminating in licensing and a move to commercialization. (It can be done!) In his presentation, Patrick Ma showed how genomics is being practically applied in drug selection and in understanding resistance to these treatments. In other words, it does not stop with drug development, and ongoing clinical optimization will always be essential. Finally, Qing Yi moderated a panel discussion where Pat Fortune, Blair Geho, Michael Haag and William Harte offered invaluable insights into the essentials for gaining early interest and incorporating fundamentals such as PD and PK in pre-clinical in vivo models.
In the Neoplastic Evolution session, Jeremy Rich's presentation on cancer stem cells sparked lively discussion regarding these entities, their character, and whether they exist at all! Pierre Triozzi provided some insight into the ins and outs of cancer immunology, including the role and limitations of monoclonal antibodies that break tolerance (currently all the rage). Mehmet Koyutürk delved into the genomics area again but with an important perspective, reminding us that we need to think in terms of pathways and not just individual genes, and illustrating potential informatics tools to help with such thinking.
The Precision Medicine session hit the genomic area hard. Just as ADD overlapped with Precision Medicine, Precision Medicine overlapped with ADD. John Wang demonstrated again that you CAN do it, meaning you can successfully move your science though the continuum towards drug, translation, and commercialization and potential freedom from NIH paylines. Ramon Tiu illustrated that genetics in cancer is about much more than kinase mutations (splicing factor mutations anyone?), and again showed genomics in clinical action. Lyndsay Harris wrapped up the speaker sessions with important illustrations of the importance (and limitations) of genomics in clinical practice and treatment selection. A final message was that the answer is not just with genomics alone, but that we need biology and mechanism, good 'ol traditional science. This is good news for all of you out there who cannot afford a personal Hi-Seq.
Overall, we felt the clustering of topics with panel discussions was successful and engaging, and encouraged interactions across experts and programs. Also, by breaking away from the typical retreat format that focuses on our scientific programs, we developed a more integrated dialogue across our Center via lunchtime roundtable discussion sessions. We are currently collecting action plans from the lunchtime table discussion leaders. These action plans will help guide the needs and innovations that members proposed, which will in turn will help us develop strategies for our investments to benefit our science.
We hope everyone enjoyed the change in format, and we look forward to reviewing your comments and suggestions!