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BCRF Researchers Gather Virtually to Discuss Scientific Findings

By BCRF | November 6, 2020

Investigators from around the world convened at our annual conference

Last month, 200 of BCRF’s 275 researchers attended our annual scientific conference. Eighteen years ago, Founding Scientific Director Dr. Larry Norton initiated the annual in-person research retreat, as BCRF investigators casually call it, to give them an opportunity to discuss their research findings, forge new collaborations, and expand existing partnerships. This year, BCRF was thrilled to continue this tradition virtually and bring investigators together by hosting the event online on October 15.

The 2020 Jill Rose Award Lecture

The Jill Rose Award for Scientific Excellence was established in 1996 and named in honor of Dr. Jill Rose, a founding BCRF Advisory Board member, philanthropist, and dynamic advocate for research. Every year, BCRF’s Scientific Advisory Board selects a researcher as the Jill Rose Award recipient who has made groundbreaking contributions to advance the field and, ultimately, improve care for patients with breast cancer.

At this year’s event, BCRF was proud to recognize Dr. William G. Kaelin, Jr. for his outstanding contributions as a clinician-scientist who has revolutionized breast cancer treatment. Notably, Dr. Kaelin, a BCRF investigator since 2006, received the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions related to how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. His discovery, shared by Drs. Gregg L. Semenza and Peter J. Ratcliffe, laid the groundwork for the development of new treatment options for a wide range of diseases and continues to inform his BCRF-supported research to find better treatments for triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease with fewer treatment options. Following his award lecture, Dr. Kaelin led a lively discussion with BCRF investigators in the virtual audience.

RELATED: An Interview with Dr. William G. Kaelin, Jr.

New flash-style presentations

In keeping with the conference’s history of promoting open and collaborative dialogue, BCRF organized nine virtual breakout sessions following Dr. Kaelin’s Jill Rose Award lecture. In small groups, investigators gave overviews of their research in quick presentations followed by moderator-led discussions.

This year’s breakout topics included those focused on diagnosis and treatment (in sessions about novel therapies and biomarkers and another on immunotherapy), personalized risk and lifestyle prevention, racial disparities, and rare forms of breast cancer (in a session on lobular and inflammatory diseases). Other groups discussed new experimental platforms and omics, tumor micro/macro environments, and mathematical approaches to research. A timely session was also added about conducting research during and after COVID-19.

The new flash-style format was well received, with researchers welcoming the opportunity to share their current work and hear from many of their peers. During these sessions, several new collaborations were discussed, and researchers have continued their conversations even after the event concluded. The success of this event and our researchers’ enthusiasm for the virtual format provides BCRF future opportunities (such as topic-specific mini symposia) to keep researchers connected throughout the year.