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Oxford’s early detection research is highlighted at this year’s virtual gathering of the Oxford cancer community.

The 9th Annual CRUK Oxford Centre Symposium was held on 21st October 2020 as a virtual event. The day started with two scientifically themed sessions on early detection and non-genetic tumour heterogeneity in the morning followed by a session welcoming new cancer research groups to Oxford after lunch. The event culminated in the Keynote talk by Professor Harald zur Hausen entitled “Indirect Infectious Carcinogens as Trigger for Common Human Cancers”.

The day kicked off with a session dedicated to Oxford’s flagship early detection projects:

  • Professor Fergus Gleeson outlined the need for earlier lung cancer diagnosis and how the recently launched DART programme was aiming to improve this by developing artificial intelligence algorithms to integrate clinical, imaging and molecular data.
  • Professor Ellie Barnes reported on the progress of the DeLIVER consortium since its launch in May. This CRUK-funded programme of research is delving into the biology of liver cancer initiation and evaluating technologies to detect the earliest signs of cancer.
  • Professor Gill Reeves described research being undertaken with the Million Women Study. By increasing the understanding about cancer risk factors, they aim to more effectively target screening efforts to diagnose breast cancer earlier.

Oxford’s breadth of early detection research was highlighted in other talks during the day:

  • Professor Ahmed Ahmed has identified a gene expression signature associated with minimal residual disease after treatment for ovarian cancer. Understanding more about resistance to treatment will improve strategies for predicting and detecting disease recurrence.
  • Professor Adam Mead is working to identify non-genetic factors that trigger the development of myeloproliferative neoplasms in a minority of the people who have genetic mutations that put them at higher risk.
  • Professor Eva Morris is linking data from multiple sources to create an ‘intelligence hub’ for identifying areas of improvements for colorectal cancer diagnosis and care. Her projects include investigating why some cancers are missed at colonoscopy and working with healthcare providers to develop strategies that address location-based variations in missed diagnoses.

OxCODE Director, Professor Xin Lu, gave a special talk in recognition of her election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society earlier this year. Xin outlined her research into cellular plasticity and cancer-associated pathogens and shared an update on a recent project where this knowledge is being used to develop a new strategy for selectively killing cancer cells.

The full programme and brochure from the day is available on the CRUK Oxford Centre website.