NCRI Conference 2014 Review

Marianne Baker Posted in Conferences, BCI on the Road 12 November 2014


BCI staff and researchers attended this year's NCRI conference in Liverpool last week.

Our senior researchers Prof Frances Balkwill and Prof John Marshall spoke in symposia on the tumour microenvironment and cancer model systems respectively. We also had 12 PhD students and post-docs presenting posters at the sessions on Monday and Tuesday.

Delegates and exhibitors came to see our stand in the exhibition hall to find out more about BCI, which showcased our senior researchers and staff members attending the conference, as well as our close links with St Bartholomew's Hospital, the ECMC Network and our Core Facilities. We again ran a cancer-fighting game competition, and the winner received a goodie bag.


A commonly agreed upon highlight was the Sunday Plenary by Sir David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk. When it comes to cancer, risk is something we often talk about but it is a concept that can be difficult to communicate, and is often misrepresented in the media. Questions of what increases or decreases our cancer risk, by how much, and in relation to other causes of suffering and mortality are common but tough to answer correctly.

DSC04116David's work focuses on this challenge, and he has presented several programmes, written books and maintained a website "to make sense of chance, risk, luck, uncertainty and probability". His talk was clear, entertaining, thoughtful and very funny. 

GoogleAnother excellent talk was given by Professor Peter Kuhn, who described a mathematical model based on Google's pagerank system that predicts the spreading behaviour of different tumour types.

Being the 10th NCRI Conference, a special series of talks were held on the theme of "whither [research topic]" - how has this aspect of cancer research advanced, and where is it likely to go in the future? These talks spanned clinical to molecular topics and while acknowledging our successes, clearly signposted areas that will benefit from future advances.

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Professor Richard Marais, chair of the Scientific Committee, explains the choice of wording in the series title, which many delegates appreciated


A concept that came up in a range of sessions was the seed and soil hypothesis, coined here in London and advanced at Barts - the question of how and why cancer spreads and to which tissues; what about certain environments in the body are 'welcoming' or 'hostile' to metastasis?

The question of what and how extensively we need to sequence genomes and other information in cancer cells and samples from tumours was addressed from each end of the spectrum; from advocating as much as possible to asking whether we could do more with less data.

In keeping with the retrospective anniversary theme, there was discussion of how cancer services have improved, how we in the UK have failed to match other countries' cancer care success, and what NHS and connected services can do as our population ages and we learn more about resistance and metastasis.

All of these themes were underpinned by the standard programme of molecular and cell biology and genetics talks - the laboratory-based bread and butter of the cancer research field, which feeds all further studies.


BCI talks

Professor Fran Balkwill introduced and chaired the "Inflammation and Cancer" Symposium on Monday afternoon. The Symposium hosted Professor Richard Vile, who discussed the shifting role of inflammation in cancer and how oncolytic virotherapy could be harnessed. We then heard from Professor Michele De Palma on resistance to anti-blood vessel treatments and the role of the angiopoeitin-2 receptor in angiogenesis. Finally we heard from Dr Ilaria Malanchi on the role of T cells in preparing distant tissues for metastasis.


Prof. John Marshall spoke in a session titled "Genetically engineered mouse models (GEMM) of cancer: how have they performed?" and discussed results recently published by Dr Kate Moore, a postdoctoral researcher in his group. This research has looked at how the integrin αvβ6 relates to triple negative breast cancer prognosis.

Also in the session: Dr Gareth Inman discussed the potential for inhibiting TGFβ signalling in cancer therapy, and Dr Ross Cagan explained how complex Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) genetic models could be used to screen for effective drug combinations.

BCI posters

Twelve posters from the BCI were presented over the two poster sessions, allowing students, post-docs, clinical researchers and recent graduates to discuss their projects with researchers from around the world. Congratulations to all whose abstracts were accepted!



Our Centre for Experimental Cancer Medicine is part of the Barts-Brighton ECMC Network. The network also had an exhibitor's stand and we both shared information about our clinical trial involvement and expertise.

On a related note, our colleague Professor Jack Cuzick and the team of researchers and clinicians who worked on the IBIS Trial received the Cancer Research UK Translational Research Award. BCI is part of a Cancer Research UK Centre of Excellence together with the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine's Centre for Cancer Prevention, also found on our Charterhouse Square campus.

Once again our VOICE course was represented by the Independent Cancer Patients' Voice stand in the main entrance hall. Please follow the link for more information on this unique patient advocate training opportunity. Many of our students attended the conference, taking advantage of the range of sessions aimed at patients and clinical staff.


Overall a diverse range of current cancer research topics was covered - it was clear that our researchers here at BCI are at the forefront, investigating avenues in cancer treatment and understanding with the very best in the field.

Click on the images below to see more of the conference. You can find more of our photos on Flickr and Facebook.


You can follow BCI on the road on Twitter

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Thanks to all who shared our tweets and said hi during the conference - keep in touch!


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