Progress in Cancer Research Symposium 2020

Cancer Research: Past, Present & Future

The inaugural Progress in Cancer Research Symposium was hosted by the Canadian Cancer Society’s Research Information Outreach Team (RIOT), London, Ontario branch, on November 14th, 2020. This symposium showcased cancer research in the London community and demonstrated the progress of cancer research over the years, with a focus on inspiring optimism for the future. We aimed to make this event informative and understandable for everyone, even those with no scientific background. Special thanks to all our speakers for preparing such informative talks and allowing us to share the recordings.

Hope you enjoy!

Introduction To RIOT – Lee Jones

Cancer 101 – Matthew Maitland

Can you elaborate on the correlation between age and childhood cancer?

It is very rare, but sometimes when our cells go through cell division they make mistakes in DNA replication. This mistake has the potential to lead to a mutation that causes or promotes cancer. It could happen at any point during a person’s life, but since the number of cell divisions increases with every day being alive, an older person has had more opportunities for potential mistakes. This cause of a mutation can happen in absence of any other risk factor.

Many childhood cancers occur because, despite the overall unlikely chance, a cell did make an error early in life. Other childhood cancers are caused by mutations inherited from the parents. In comparison to other cancer types, childhood cancer on the whole is relatively uncommon

Cancer Metastasis: Tracking and Targeting an Elusive Enemy – Dr. Alison Allan

Is there any particular reason why breast cancer metastasizes to bone and lung?

Does the liquid biopsy have the same invasiveness as a standard muscle or tissue biopsy? If not, what is the difference in clinical application?

How can patients get involved in clinical trials?

Although some oncologists will be actively looking for candidates for clinical trials, we always encourage patients to ASK whether there are any clinical trials that they may be eligible for. Often these clinical trials give patients access to cutting-edge therapies that aren’t yet widely available, or new imaging/biomarker tests. So don’t be afraid to ask your oncologist!

Information about available clinical trials can also be found on the Canadian Cancer Trials website:

Will Number 2 Be Number 1 – Dr. John Lenehan

How are you able to convince people to take poop?

How do you screen the good poop to make sure there is nothing bad in there that could get passed on?

Can we optimistically hope that using the fecal transplants will help to mitigate some of the side effects of chemo, in addition to improving the clinical outcomes of immunotherapy? I’m wondering about cells with high turn over rates (gut irritability, tongue lacerations, nausea)?

How long does it take for the microbiome to become healthy enough to enhance the immunotherapy?

The gut microbiome begins to grow at birth. Over time, with healthy life choices, it evolves and continues to be healthy. The microbiome surprisingly remains stable over time. Things like travel and eating different foods only cause a blip, but it returns back to normal when someone is back in their normal environment. Chronic illness or poor lifestyle habits can change it dramatically. It’s a lifelong process. FMT changes it nearly instantly. The question is – what is the best way to do it, and how long does it last? There are groups working on answering these questions and the MIMic trial will also contribute to answering this question.

What kind of cancers can be benefited by Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT)?

FMT can help patients with different cancer types. Melanoma was studied first because, out of all cancers, the immune system can recognize it very easily. It has the most mutations in its DNA. Other cancers have less mutations but immunotherapy works in those cancers that still have a high number of mutations. FMT improves the immune system in general, regardless of cancer type. So, if the immune cells can get it to the tumour microenvironment, the immune cells can kill cancer cells, and FMT can help create a healthier gut microbiome – and a healthier/better immune system.

A Cancer Survivor Turned Cancer Researcher’s story – Colette Benko

How old were you when you were doing research and how did you have time for it? Has your work lead to anything significant?

What advice would you give to someone just receiving a cancer diagnosis?

From Intuition to Precision: Reflections on Progress & Promise in Cancer Research – Dr. David Litchfield

From your perspective, what are some of the major challenges we face for cancer research in Canada and what are our best chances for success?

Approximately how many different labs in London are working on cancer research?

We have made a lot of progress in cancer research so how much more progress do you predict that we can make?

Western University Medical BioPhysics Graduate Student Talks

Image-guided breast biopsy: Functional imaging and ultrasound? – Claire Park

What are breast phantom objects?

Breast phantoms are essentially specially designed objects that can be imaged, in place of a patient. Our phantoms are made using agar-based mixtures, which simulate breast tissue in the ultrasound images. We can use different proportions (mixtures) to create contrast between the normal breast tissue and tumours.

Images are more than just pictures: they’re data – Tricia Chinnery

How does identifying the texture of a tumour impact diagnostic decisions?

If our computer can associate a certain tumour texture with a bad outcome from a medical image alone, then, when future cancer patients come into the clinic to get scanned and they have the qualities of that same texture feature, we’ll be able to know upfront that they may have a bad outcome. More importantly, this would alert their doctors to prescribe a higher radiation dose to the patient or a treatment on the side that may give them a shot at a better outcome!

How Artificial Intelligence Can Improve Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer – Nathan Orlando

Are there any undesirable side effects of implanting radioactive material in the prostate for imaging purposes?

In regards to the side effects of the implantation itself, yes, there are side effects. While patients are under general anesthesia during the procedure, when they wake up they do experience some pain. The good news is this pain is fleeting, and most patients return home the same day! Current research suggests that it is preferred to the multi-week effect of external beam treatment.

Imaging Patient-Derived Xenographs: This Time It’s Personal – Natasha Knier