BLACKSBURG, Va. , April 29, 2011 - Virginia Bioinformatics Institute hosted the first annual Cancer Symposium on April 29th, bringing together over 200 cancer researchers, health advocates, and students in the fight against cancer.

Conceived by Kristin Canavera, a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology, and with the help of Alireza Salmanzadeh, PhD candidate in Engineering Science and Mechanics, the Cancer Symposium featured keynotes by Frank Torti, PhD, of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Melanie Bonner, PhD, of Duke Medical Center. Additional noted speakers included Abigail Bartley of the American Cancer Society, David Kingston, PhD, Rafael Davalos, PhD, John Rossmeisl, PhD, Karen Brewer, PhD, Ishwar Puri, PhD, John Roberston, PhD, Brenda Winkel, PhD, and Carla Finkielstein, PhD. The researchers discussed various aspects of cancer research from drug target discovery to DNA photobinding as a means of controlling cancer cell growth.

As Canavera noted, “The symposium was truly exceptional. For the first time on this campus, we had some of the most brilliant minds collaborating, exchanging and sharing ideas specifically for advancing our understanding of cancer. We have hopefully sparked innovative ideas that will get us closer to finding cures through the combination of increased discussion among the researchers and hearing from inspirational survivors.”

A survivor’s and advocates panel consisted of Dr. Joan Fisher, pediatric oncologist; Lauren Bush, childhood survivor and her mother, Julia Gilliam; Megan Riley, American Cancer Society scholarship winner; Edward Spencer, PhD, Vice President for Virginia Tech Student Affairs; and Kathleen Werner, board member for the Komen Foundation and the New River Valley Breast Health Team. This panel “…truly awed the audience,” said VBI Event Coordinator Traci Roberts. “Their purpose and drive was to call these researchers to action and provide meaningful research.”

A poster session with 51 participants ranged on topics from awareness regarding tanning beds and skin cancer to tumor phenotypes. Three winners were named, receiving cash prizes of $300, $200, and $100, respectively. Vrushali Chavan took 1st place while Hyung Joon Cho took 2nd and Iman Tavassoly received 3rd.

A representative from NVIDIA Foundation was also present to discuss the recently-awarded “Compute the Cure” partnership with Wuchen Feng, PhD and David Mittelman, PhD. This award provides funds and equipment to benefit cancer research, an important mission of NVIDIA Foundation. (See the NVIDIA release for more information).

The event was jointly sponsored by the American Cancer Society, Appalachia Community Cancer Network, Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Virginia Tech Graduate School, the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, the Institute for Society, Culture and the Environment at Virginia Tech, Fralin Life Science Institute, and Women in Leadership and Philanthropy. “I can’t help but think of our American Cancer Society/Relay For Life t-shirt this year which says, ‘Invent the Cure’. We actually got permission to cross out the "future" in the logo 'Invent the Future' and change it to 'Invent the Cure’,” Canavera said. “We’re really looking forward to next year’s event.”

See the program for more information.


Tiffany Trent

(540) 231-6822

Published by Tiffany Trent, May 06, 2011