In early December 2023, 170 members of the OxCODE community came together in person for our annual celebration of Oxford’s early cancer detection research.
OxCODE Director Xin Lu got proceedings underway with a summary of the impressive achievements in early cancer detection by OxCODE members in the past year and announced OxCODE's expanded remit to also include cancer precision prevention research.
The first session on Cancer Epidemiology was dedicated to David Hunter, in recognition of his appointment as Companion of the Order of Australia in the Australian King’s Birthday Honours List. Julia Hippisley-Cox (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences) kicked us off with a description of her recently developed CanPredict tool that identifies people at highest risk of developing lung cancer. Continuing the epidemiology session, Ruth Travis (Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health) discussed her research into proteomic markers for early detection and cancer prognosis using the UK Biobank and EPIC cohorts. In our first keynote talk at this year’s Oxford Centre for Early Cancer Detection symposium, David Hunter (Nuffield Department of Population Health) outlined the potential role of polygenic risk scores and their investigation within Our Future Health.
In the session patient involvement with research, one of our PPI representatives Steph Phillips (TP53 Trust) gave a hugely powerful talk about the value of hope in cancer research. Steph is buddying up with DPhil researcher Miriam Dixon-Zegeye (Blagden group, Department of Oncology) and they explained the mutual benefit of this scheme.
Last before lunch, we heard lightning talks from three early career researchers who won this year’s OxCODE travel awards to represent Oxford at the Early Detection of Cancer Conference in London. Eoghan Mulholland (Leedham group, Centre for Human Genetics) shared his research on the biology of colorectal cancer initiation and James Chettle (Blagden group, Department of Oncology) gave a talk on the RNA binding protein LARP1 and its involvement in tumourigenesis. Jingfei Cheng (standing in for OxCODE travel award winner Masato Inoue, Song group, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research) updated on their progress towards a human tissue atlas of DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation. These vignettes stimulated a lively poster session over lunch, with posters showcasing the full breadth of OxCODE’s multidisciplinary research.
The fourth session focussed on liquid biopsy technologies. Brian Nicholson (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences) discussed why we need early detection studies in primary care, the most common route for cancer diagnosis, so that the patients at highest risk can be prioritised for further investigation. Anna Schuh (Department of Oncology) took us on a tour of her work on liquid biopsy platforms in three different clinical settings, including patients with non-specific symptoms, individuals with pre-malignant myeloma and children under investigation for EBV-driven lymphomas in sub-Saharan Africa.
In our final session on early cancer biology, Adam Mead (MRC Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine) shared findings on the evolution of TP53-mutant MPNs This understanding will help develop risk stratification, early detection and treatment strategies for this disease. Next, Simon Buczacki (Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences) gave an overview of his findings from experiments with patient-derived colon organoids. Simon’s group have discovered that the order of driver mutations during colorectal cancer evolution influences cancer initiation. We then heard a fantastic keynote talk by Samra Turajlic (Francis Crick Institute) who described her research into the evolution of cancers in patients with von Hippel-Lindau disease.
Wrapping up the day, OxCODE Associate Director, Simon Leedham, summarised the key messages from the talks and posters. The successful day finished with a networking drinks reception.
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