ICCI Cancer Research Symposium - Bianca Baldan

Attending the ICCI Cancer Research Symposium on May 28 was a fun and exciting way to learn about what is “hot” in oncology research today. Oncology has been an interest of mine for a while, ever since cancer first affected my family. I was especially excited this summer to have the opportunity to do research on canine osteosarcoma and this symposium was a wonderful way for me to get a taste of what my summer would be like.

I was fully expecting to be overwhelmed with the amount of new information being presented to us – I won’t lie, a lot of the molecular biology topics went over my head. However, I took a step back so I wouldn’t get bogged down in the details I didn’t fully understand and was able to follow most of the topics, jotting down notes here and there to look up later. I found Dr. Petrik’s talk particularly interesting. He spoke about vascular normalization to increase efficacy of ovarian cancer therapies and why it is so difficult to deliver drugs to tumours. He noted that tumours flood the area with pro-angiogenic factors and induce disorganized, poorly formed vasculature in order to accommodate oxygen and metabolic needs of the cancer cells. These blood vessels actually decrease blood perfusion to the tumour itself and lead to hypoxic conditions and elevated interstitial pressure, which further impedes drug delivery. Dr. Petrik’s lab has developed an approach using Thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) to normalize tumour blood vessels. This sounds counter-intuitive as the tumour will have more access to nutrients it needs to grow, but this approach will increase chemotherapeutic drug uptake by the tumour. What a fascinating concept!

The symposium was filled with interesting and novel therapies and approaches being presented. I enjoyed myself and learned a lot about the exciting world of oncology research and I hope to attend again in the future.