For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, 150 members of the OxCODE community came together in person for a day of talks and discussions. OxCODE Director Xin Lu got proceedings underway with a summary of the impressive achievements in early cancer detection by OxCODE members since OxCODE was launched in 2019.
The first session focused on the challenges in early cancer detection. Alexis Webb (Cancer Research UK) started us off by outlining five challenges, including identifying people at higher risk of cancer, elucidating the biology of cancer development, biomarker discovery, detection technology development and clinical evaluation. Following this excellent scene-setting, Bethan Psaila (MRC Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine) described these challenges in the context of myeloid blood cancers and her recent efforts to better understand the triggers of transformation to advanced cancer and the identification and validation of potential new biomarkers and treatments. Moving to liver cancer, Ellie Barnes (Nuffield Department of Medicine) updated the audience on the progress in tackling the challenges in early detection through the DeLIVER early detection of hepatocellular carcinoma programme. James East (Nuffield Department of Medicine) rounded off the first session by outlining the “faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) plus” and other strategies that are being developed to detect colorectal cancer precursors with the aim of realising the potential that exists for colorectal cancer prevention.
The second session highlighted the important role of patient and public involvement in early cancer detection research with a talk from Oxford Cancer PPI group representative Tom Doust. Catriona Gilmour Hamilton (Oxford University Hospitals) shared her experiences of working with the Oxford Blood Group to define patient priorities to help guide research direction. Julliet Lwiindi (Oxford Cancer) outlined the support available from Oxford Cancer to help researchers involve patients and the public in their research.
Last before lunch, we heard four lightning talks from early career researchers, selected from the submitted poster abstracts. Weiqi Liao (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences) described his research on developing and validating a lung cancer risk prediction model using the QResearch database, Hannah Fuchs (Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research) shared her latest results on using TP53 autoantibodies for oesophageal cancer early detection, Joshua Bull (Mathematical Institute) outlined using mathematical tools for spatial analysis of multiplex medical images and Felix Jackson (Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research) presented data from cell-free DNA detection using the TAPS method. These vignettes stimulated a lively poster session over lunch, with posters showcasing the full breadth of OxCODE’s multidisciplinary research.
In the session on early detection clinical trials, Sarah Blagden (Department of Oncology) described her vision for precision prevention trials for advancing cancer prevention in the 21st century. Brian Nicholson (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences) highlighted the opportunities available for testing existing and developing novel early diagnostics for patients with non-specific symptoms of cancers referred to the SCAN pathway in Oxfordshire. We were then delighted to welcome Professor Peter Sasieni as our keynote speaker (Director, King's College London Clinical Trials Unit). Peter spoke about cancer screening, prevention and early detection trials and some guiding principles to consider.
Our final session of the day focused on Oxford’s innovative early cancer detection technologies. Daniel Anthony (Department of Pharmacology) shared his research on using metabolomics for cancer detection in a mixed population of patients with non-specific symptoms. Daniel Royston (Oxford University Hospitals) talked about improving the early diagnosis of blood cancers through the use of machine learning-enhanced analysis of bone marrow images. In the final talk, Jens Rittscher and Martin Booth (Department of Engineering Science) outlined their research on the use of artificial intelligence and advanced optics to transition from computer-assisted imaging to smart sensing in endoscopy.
Wrapping up the day, OxCODE Associate Director, Ellie Barnes, summarised the key messages from the talks and posters and announced the winners of this year’s OxCODE Travel Awards. The successful day finished with a networking drinks reception.
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