American Society of Clinical Oncology conference - 2009

I graduated from Cambridge University (B.A. (Honours, Medical Sciences) in 2001 and became a member of the royal College of Surgeons of England in 2006. I currently hold a Cancer Research UK Clinical Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital.  The focus of my research towards a DPhil in Medical Oncology is the characterisation of cancer stem cells in a panel of colorectal cancer cell lines and developing laboratory techniques including tissue culturing, cell sorting and immunofluorescence. I am also Editor of  www.esurgery.net, an on-line teaching resource for surgical trainees.

I was fortunate to have been awarded a travel grant by the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation, which enabled me to attend and present my research at the 2009 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in Orlando, Florida. I found this experience extremely rewarding from both a clinical and scientific point of view.

ASCO is the world’s leading professional organisation representing physicians of all oncology subspecialties. The ASCO annual conference is considered the most important international forum for the presentation of scientific research and education in clinical oncology. The 2009 meeting focused on personalising cancer care and attracted over 30,000 clinicians and scientists from around the world.

This conference provided an invaluable experience for me to discuss my work with and receive useful feedback from a wide audience of clinicians and scientists all at the cutting edge of research. My work focused on colorectal cancer stem cells, which are the subpopulation of cancer cells that drive tumour growth. We have developed a novel method to isolate and grow these cancer stem cells in the laboratory, which will make it easier to identify drugs that are specific against these cancer stem cells. There were several sessions devoted to the emerging field of cancer stem cells, and I was particularly inspired to see how bench-side results could be translated for the benefit of our patients. For example, there is increasing evidence that cancer stem cells are more resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy than the non-stem cell population, and further work in this area could help develop better treatment options for cancer patients.

I also had the opportunity to listen to world leaders in the field of oncology and update myself with significant advances in the fight against cancer, including the latest results from large-scale clinical trials using chemotherapy to treat colorectal cancer, such as QUASAR. The main theme of the conference was personalizing treatment, that is, tailoring treatment options that best suit the individual patient, as highlighted by colorectal cancer patients that have a mutation in a gene known as K-ras, who would not benefit from treatment with a drug called cetuximab. This is a significant issue, as studies have shown that between 30-90% of colorectal cancer patients have this mutation.

Although my timetable was tight, I managed to squeeze in some sightseeing and enjoyed the warm weather and the friendly welcome of the people in Orlando.

Once again, I would like to thank the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation for generously supporting my work, and allowing me to attend this highly educational and important scientific conference.

Trevor Yeung
Cancer Research UK Clinical Research Fellow
University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital
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