Dr Maria Prencipe, PHD.
IACR Council Member 2016-2019
Snapshot from the Irish Association for Cancer Research annual meeting. Ireland’s premier cancer research conference brings together top Irish and international cancer researchers and patients to discuss progress.
While conventional cancer treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have been combined, for decades, in an effort to treat cancer patients, the emergence of novel fields of cancer research have led to a renewed interest in combining conventional treatments with more innovative approaches.
The realisation that cancer progression is not exclusively due to changes in the cancer cells, but also involves changes in the tumour surroundings as well as in the immune system, has opened new avenues for combination treatments.
Among the novel treatment strategies, immune metabolism, epigenetic therapies and physical exercise were discussed. For example, the positive effect of physical exercise in combination with conventional therapies of cancer treatment, at all stages of the cancer survivorship pathway was highlighted.
In addition, novel technologies such as digital pathology and precision medicine, which will help to better tailor treatments to individual patients, were presented.
Several examples of these novel combinations were presented at the 55th IACR conference, a shared platform for patients, researchers and clinicians. Great emphasis was placed on survivorship and patients’ quality of life after treatment.
Patient and public involvement at the IACR annual meeting
While clinicians have regular meetings with cancer patients, cancer researchers very rarely get the opportunity to meet them. At the same time, cancer research might seem difficult to grasp for the general public, including patients.
So, this years’ conference was opened with an award designed to encourage early-stage researchers to engage with the general public to talk about their research: ‘The Professor Patrick Johnston IACR Award for Excellence in Cancer Research Outreach‘.
Six researchers were selected to present their findings. They had the hard task of presenting their research to the general public, including secondary school pupils. A judging panel and the audience then voted for the most accessible presentation.
Patients and researchers working together
The great success of this public session was in no small part due to a public engagement workshop held two weeks before the IACR meeting. During this workshop, pairs of researchers and patient mentors worked together to make science communication more accessible to the general public.
This workshop was a great occasion for patients and researchers to meet and talk to each other. It was especially useful for early-stage researchers who learnt to look at the bigger picture and to value what really matters to patients. The ultimate goal of the IACR is to improve the patient journey from diagnosis, through treatment to the lived experience of cancer.