Cancer Biology GIDP
San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium
San Antonio, TX
December 6-10, 2016
The H.E. Carter Travel Award provided me the opportunity to attend and present my research at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) in San Antonio, TX from December 6-10, 2016. Over 8000 scientists, clinicians, students, and exhibitors attended SABCS this year, with roughly half of the attendees coming from international countries and thus lending a highly diverse environment. As a breast cancer researcher, the conference was appropriate and informative for my dissertation project and growth as an independent researcher. Presentation topics included basic and translational breast cancer research, as well as the latest clinical trial results. The major research themes focused on novel therapeutic targets, specifically novel immunotherapy and CDK4/6 inhibitors (to target tumor cell cycle); addressing anti-endocrine-therapy resistant estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer; and understanding the role of the tumor microenvironment in initiating and supporting tumorigenesis and metastasis. Every “hot topic” is directly pertinent to my current research on elucidating the signaling pathways that drive ER+ breast cancer bone metastasis within the bone microenvironment, and eventually determining targeted therapeutics to these pathways. Attending these presentations offered me new insight on alternative experiments I could carry out to accomplish my goal (such as determining the effects of mutated ER on metastasis, or assessing the role of the bone microenvironment on differential tumor gene expression). There were also many presentations announcing the results of recent clinical trials, many of which studied the effects of prolonging anti-endocrine-therapy in ER+ patients, which could eventually affect ER+ bone metastasis biology and prognoses
The first event I attended at the conference was a Career Development Forum for young scientists, and it featured twenty-two rotating tables each with two or more mentors who are experts on specific topics such as alternative career paths, grant writing, how to get the most out of a post-doctoral fellowship, oral presentation skills, and much more. This forum offered a casual setting for one-on-one conversations and group discussions with successful scientists. I received very helpful advice through my chats with industry leaders, such as Dr. Steven Shak from Genomic Health and Dr. Catherine Schnabel of bioTheranostics, as well as academic researchers from across the country, such as Drs. Susan Hilsenbeck and Yi Li from Baylor College of Medicine. This diversity in perspectives and advice was a great supplement to the mentoring I’ve received at the University of Arizona.
I also had the opportunity to present my research at SABCS. Currently, preclinical models to determine the signaling pathways that drive ER+ breast cancer bone metastasis within the bone microenvironment are not well established and studied. Our laboratory has developed 3 complementary models, and I presented a poster on the estrogen-dependency of one such model. Many scientists (from graduate students to academic researchers to clinicians) stopped by and were eager to learn about my project, oftentimes giving or even seeking advice. This event gave me the opportunity to feel what it is like to be the expert in my unique research niche (and it felt great!).
My previous PI, Karen Anderson, MD PhD, from Arizona State University also attended the conference, and I was able to have dinner with her and her collaborators from Mayo Clinic who research cancer immunotherapy, including Barbara Pockaj, MD; Ann McCullough, MD; Michael Barrett, PhD; Maria Linnaus, MD; and Chelsea Gawryletz, DO. I intend to nurture our introductions and fun dinner conversations into long lasting network connections. I also had the opportunity to meet and establish friendships with other researchers in my area, including some graduate students from my alma mater (ASU), and I look forward to asking for their expertise throughout my dissertation research and possible future collaborations.
Overall the 2016 SABCS was an educational, rewarding, and fun experience that has greatly contributed to my goal in becoming an independent researcher, and was all made possible by the generous H.E. Carter Travel Award.