With support from the GSA Travel Award, I had a fantastic opportunity to attend the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which was held from April 5 to April 9 in San Diego, California. The meeting was an extremely educational and collaborative event where over 18,000 attendees ranging from researchers to patient advocates came to one place from around the world to share their work and perspectives on “targeting cures” for cancer. The meeting offered thousands of talks and posters on a variety of topics including new concepts in cancer research and basic/translational/clinical research. One of the memorable expert talks I attended was NextGen Cancer Research by Dr. Stephen Friend from Sage Bionetworks. It was interesting to hear an expert’s perspective on how data-driven cancer research can become more effective by adapting new methods of data sharing and new ways of crediting scientists’ work. That one talk alone broadened my view of research – that IT is now an indispensible part of the field of cancer research linking the bench and the bedside.
The meeting was housed in the San Diego Convention Center and at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina located by the San Diego Bay. The early walks along the bay lined with palm trees to the Convention Center refreshed me every morning, invigorating my participation in the meeting. Although the size of the meeting was enormous, it was fairly easy to navigate through the meeting using a mobile app, which allows you to search for talks of your interest. The app provided the time and location of the presentations as well as a personal calendar. The scene at the meeting was spectacular with thousands of people finding their ways to their destinations in a Convention Center the size of an airport, many of them carrying the AACR messenger bags. The overwhelmingly vast meeting surprisingly provided a relaxing environment. Throughout the day, I could spot people taking a break in the balcony area of the Convention Center, soaking in the sun and enjoying the breeze.
As a graduate student working in Dr. William Isaacs’ lab, I was elected to give a 10-minute talk at a mini-symposium themed Gene Regulation and Transcription Factors for my work on the mechanisms of the HOXB13 G84E mutation in prostate cancer development. My thesis work is a follow-up study for our lab’s recent genetic discovery that the G84E mutation in the HOXB13 transcription factor is associated with prostate cancer risk. After getting my first podium talk at a large conference out of the way, I feel that I will be more comfortable to give a talk in front of a big audience. 4 other researchers shared their work in the symposium chaired by Dr. Martin Horstmann from University of Hamburg and Dr. Waldemar Priebe from MD Anderson. I had a chance to hear some of the presenters’ work on transcription factors such as ETV1 in prostate cancer and also to familiarize myself with other experimental approaches I can take to study my gene of interest.
In addition to the talks, there was a plethora of poster sessions and vendor exhibits. The number of posters presented over several days was a bit mind-boggling despite their positional organization by topic, given the sheer quantity of posters, the topics the posters covered and the massive hall where the poster session was held. But again, the mobile app greatly improves picking and choosing the posters to visit. I recommend planning the visit to the poster session so that one starts from one end of the hall and ends at the other end of the hall. After I visited some posters, I went around grabbing goodies and food from different vendor booths and chatting with the vendors who scanned my badge. AACR later emailed me the list of the booths I visited using the information from scanning. The vendors included not only big pharmaceutical companies, but also many start-up companies (one company was offering custom antibodies for $99) and research institutes that were recruiting new post-doctoral fellows. I also ran into my old coworkers from Boston that I had not seen for years ,who are now in different parts of the US – this made the AACR an opportune event for networking.
The AACR Annual Meeting was by far the most educating and entertaining conference I have attended. I would love to attend the next annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA. I am again grateful for the GSA Travel Award. Lastly, for those who will go to San Diego for a conference, many restaurants and bars are located in the Gaslamp Quarter. My lab mates and I ate a lot of Mexican food when we were out there, and I got to drink something called Corona-rita, a margarita drink with a mini bottle of Corona stuck upside down. I recommend Puesto for Mexican food at Seaport Village for people who may be staying in the San Diego bay area for a conference!