“One of the best online meetings during the pandemic”

Due to Covid-19 measures, the Cancer Core Europe Summer School will be held online again this year. “But even behind their computer, participants are given a unique chance to network between disciplines, age groups and specializations,” says the head of the organizing committee, Professor Stefan Fröhling from the German Cancer Research Center and the National Center for Tumor Diseases in Heidelberg. “Last year’s version, which was held online as well, was actually one of the liveliest and most interactive online meetings I attended so far!”

Goal of CCE Summer School
The goal of the Cancer Core Europe Summer School, which was organized for the first time in 2016, is networking in the broadest sense, Fröhling explains. “Unlike regular conferences, this Summer School offers the opportunity for young scientists to easily interact with the older generation. Also, we let different disciplines mingle. Scientists, clinicians and nowadays also patients, present themselves and learn from each other. Of course, when you are ‘locked up’ in a retreat where you ‘can’t escape’, like in previous editions of the Summer School, interaction is easier than behind your webcam. But we have really worked on the possibilities for online interaction”, Fröhling says. Already more than 800 participants have registered from all over the world, inside and outside the CCE network.

Patient participation
One of the presentations that Fröhling is very much looking forward to, is by Dr. Tanya Bisseling, of Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Fröhling: “She is a scientist but has been a cancer patient too. She will explain how patients are no longer considered subjects nowadays, but true partners in cancer research.” It is a similar message that will be addressed by Dr. Corrie Painter of the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, USA. “With her project ‘Count Me In’, she has given patients an active role in research”, Fröhling knows. “This is not only important for the people our work is all about, the patients, but also for researchers. Especially in rare cancers, it can be extremely hard to get enough data to do proper research. Active patient networks are of essential help there.”

The role of the microbiome
Another highlight Fröhling wants to mention is the presentation by Dr. Elda Tagliabue of the Instituto Nazionale dei Tumori in Milano, Italy. “Immunotherapy is one of the important pillars of modern cancer care. Dr Tagliabue has done very important research on the role of a patient’s own microbiome. How do the microbes on and in our bodies determine the way a tumor does or does not respond to immunotherapy? I feel that this is one of the very important questions for the near future, that may cause a next paradigm shift in cancer research.”

Prevention overlooked
One of the aspects that may have been overlooked for a long time in cancer research is prevention. Fröhling: “The idea that we should also work with individuals that are healthy, instead of patients only, will give us enormous progress in cancer research. Dr. Joachim Schüz, of Cancer Prevention Europe, International Agency for Research on Cancer in France, will tell us all about implementation of effective prevention and also: how to measure success!”

Living legend
Like he’s saving the best for last, Fröhling wants to announce what he calls a presentation by one of the living legends in cancer research. “Together with Professor Robert Weinberg from the Whitehead Institute, USA, Professor Douglas Hanahan of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, wrote the famous ‘Hallmarks of Cancer’ publication in 2000. Now, at the 21st anniversary of that publication, Professor Hanahan will provide the participants of the Summer School with an update of the article that really everybody in our field knows. These are the people who first introduced oncogenes to us, as well as tumor suppressor genes. I am very much looking forward to listening to one of the giants on whose shoulders we all stand.”

Flash talk
In the two afternoons that the Summer School takes this year, there’s also a number of interactive workshops. Fröhling: “What about learning to write grant applications? Or a very practical presentation by Dr. Richard Baird of Cancer Research UK, Cambridge Centre, on the statistics behind interventional clinical trials?”

The true highlight, however, are the various flash talks by young scientists, Fröhling says. “They get the chance to present their research in a very informal, low-threshold manner. It is these presentations by ‘the next generation’ that make the Summer School particularly worthwhile to me.”

Professor Stefan Fröhling, organizer of the 13 & 14 October 2021 CCE Summer School

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