Okay, so we don’t actually lock the door. But in two weeks’ time, I’ll be reporting back from the 11th Biennial Prostate Cancer Forum. It’s an event we’ve funded over the past 22 years and it sees some of the world’s top prostate cancer researchers and clinicians pooling their collective expertise to try and beat prostate cancer.
In research terms it’s hugely exciting. Last month I talked about why meetings like this are so important for researchers early on in their career but, in fact, the more senior researchers become, the more valuable opportunities like this are.
In the daily life of a busy researcher or clinician it isn’t easy to find time or a place to share expertise, brainstorm new ideas and collaborate with peers from across the globe. And that’s where research conferences like the Forum come in.
We asked some of the researchers heading out to the Forum in a few weeks, why they’re looking forward to it and why they think it’s such a good investment – in both time and money.
Johann de Bono, Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research in London
“Prostate cancer research is a global effort – we need to hear what’s going on elsewhere in the world. Time is our most precious and difficult asset and so small meetings like this, that give us time together to build collaborations and share data, are very valuable.
“And these meetings generate exciting ideas – for example, I heard a talk at a Prostate Cancer UK Forum a few years ago that inspired some of my current work on PARP inhibitors – drugs that lead to cancer cell death in prostate cancers with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.”
Craig Robson, Professor of Molecular Urology at Newcastle University
“The Forum brings together a diverse group of international scientists and clinicians with interests in all aspects of prostate cancer. It gives us the opportunity to have detailed conversations about different approaches to tackle the big questions in prostate cancer research, as well as access to unpublished data and open discussions about new discoveries.
“I can think of several examples where discussions about new technologies at previous international forums have given me ideas about how to apply these techniques to my own research – for example using high throughput screening to identify new prostate cancer drug targets and to study circulating tumour cells (cancer cells released from the tumour into the bloodstream).”
Dr Hayley Whittaker, Lead Scientist of the Biomarker Initiative in the Cambridge Research Institute
“Conferences like this provide an excellent opportunity to get completely up to date in all areas of prostate research and not just the specific area that I focus on.
“This is really essential, because each area of research impacts on others – none of them exist in isolation. So it’s a good way to get ideas about new angles and approaches to problems.
“People often present unpublished data at this meeting so it’s totally cutting edge research. The most important thing I get from these conferences is meeting with my peers and discussing new ideas and possible collaborations. We get so much more done face to face and it can otherwise be really difficult to get everyone in one room at the same time.
“At previous meetings I’ve presented my work on new prostate cancer biomarkers – and established new collaborations on the back of this, which have allowed me to test these markers on patient groups I wouldn’t otherwise have been aware of, or had access to. For example, we focus mainly on surgery patients in my group, so these collaborations have allowed me to see if our biomarkers were useful tools to predict outcome following chemotherapy or radiotherapy too.”
What are we hoping for?
Meetings like the Forum can be extremely fruitful. We hope that the researchers will leave with new ideas and a clearer picture of the future of prostate cancer research.
For those of us from Prostate Cancer UK attending, we hope that we’ll leave with some good ideas for research we should be funding in future.
And we’re also going armed with your questions to put to this huge panel of experts – the questions you think research should be trying to answer.
When we get back from the conference, we’ll be posting all these questions on our website together with any answers we get from the meeting– so watch this space.
Or you can read more about innovations that have come out previous Forums in my blog post Why you don’t need to spend a lot on research to make a splash