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What I Learned at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

By BCRF | January 3, 2017

BCRF’s scientific program manager, Dr. Maneesh Kumar, shares his firsthand experience

Each December, thousands of researchers, advocates and representatives from industry come from around the world to converge in San Antonio, TX for the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) with the same goal in mind: to better understand and cure breast cancer. Now that I’ve had a chance to recover from my very first SABCS, I can reflect on those five thought-provoking days, which brought together the brightest minds in breast cancer research.

SABCS is a whirlwind of poster sessions, presentations, and discussions; topics covering cellular biology, epidemiology, survivorship and clinical trials; and scientists, patients, and advocates in attendance. BCRF was well represented as always, with hundreds of posters and dozens of presentations by BCRF investigators, four of whom were honored for their research accomplishments and three BCRF staff to cover the plethora of sessions to report out in our blogs and social media.

For me, the energy was invigorating, the amount of information was overwhelming, and the interaction with BCRF researchers and patient advocates was inspiring. Coming to BCRF from the neuroscience field, it was interesting to see where the research overlaps in different fields as well as the new discoveries, clinical trials, and innovations specific to breast cancer research.

One of my personal passions has always been career development for young scientists. I enjoy speaking with graduate students and postdocs not only about their work, but also their career goals and how they plan to accomplish them. The poster sessions at SABCS provided a great opportunity for me to connect with young investigators, who are all focusing on different aspects of breast cancer, and I saw the promise they hold for the future of breast cancer research as a whole.

Similarly, I had the unique privilege of guiding two undergraduate students through SABCS. Abdul Rashid Abdulai and Keshan Kissoon were interns at BCRF over this past summer and worked on a project with the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance. For the project, Abdul and Keshan created an interactive online tool that identifies active metastatic breast cancer clinical trials and is designed to be a tool for metastatic breast cancer patients. The intern’s work was selected for a poster presentation at SABCS and they were able to join us to present their work to conference attendees.

Together, we designed the poster and I was able to teach them how to effectively present the project itself and the key findings. Keshan said, “I enjoyed being able to directly interact with people during the poster session. Even though I was nervous, because it was the first poster I presented, the time flew by. If I could do it again I definitely would plan more time to sleep! We also attended sessions together and visited posters.” Of his first conference, Abdul said, “SABCS was a great exposure and experience for me especially because of I am aspiring for a career in clinical immuno-oncology and immunotherapy.”