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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Sixth Annual DCEG Fellows' Training Symposium

by Sarah Keadle, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Emily Vogtmann, Ph.D., M.P.H.

In March, DCEG held the sixth annual Fellows’ Training Symposium, which was titled, “Next Generation Population Studies: Building Cohorts and Leveraging Technology.” This topic was selected in part based on the first DCEG Town Hall Meeting hosted by new DCEG Director Stephen J. Chanock, M.D., where he discussed future directions for DCEG cohort studies.

The Fellows' Training Symposium organizing committee: Rena Jones, Melanie Palazzo, Elizabeth Yanik, Wei Jie Seow, Orestis Panagiotou, Jackie Lavigne, Sarah Keadle, Emily Vogtmann, Anna Coghill, and Kristin Kiser.

The event, sponsored by DCEG’s Office of Education (OE), was organized by a committee comprised of DCEG fellows, including co-chairs Sarah Keadle, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Emily Vogtmann Ph.D., M.P.H., as well as committee members Anna Coghill, Ph.D., M.P.H., Rena Jones Ph.D., Orestis Panagiotou, M.D., Ph.D., Wei Jie Seow, Sc.D., M.D., and Elizabeth Yanik, Ph.D. The committee was supported by Jackie Lavigne, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief of OE, Kristin Kiser, M.H.A., M.S., and Melanie Palazzo. More than 60 predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows participated in the event.

Dr. Alpa V. Patel, strategic director of the Cancer Prevention Study-3, a new American Cancer Society cohort of 300,000 people, began the symposium with a presentation that provided a detailed overview of the enrollment and data collection procedures that were critical to the successful development of the study. She emphasized the methodological and logistical challenges of initiating a large cohort, as well as the exciting opportunities and research questions that are being explored in this study.

Fellows' Training Symposium speakers Charles Matthews, Alpa Patel, and Lawrence David.

Dr. Larry W. Chang, assistant professor of medicine and associate director of the Global mHealth Initiative for Johns Hopkins University, presented, “mHealth: Overview and opportunities for novel cancer research.” He provided an overview of this relatively new research area and discussed possible applications of sensors and device-based mobile platforms in cancer research. Dr. Chang cited examples from his own work ranging from smartphone-based cancer screening programs in India to ecological momentary assessment for monitoring risky behavior and increasing treatment adherence among HIV-AIDS patients.  

Dr. Lawrence David, assistant professor for the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, presented “Epidemiological studies and the human microbiome.” He gave an overview on the human microbiome and explained why it may be an important exposure to incorporate into future large-scale studies. Dr. David also presented examples from his recent work that showed that various lifestyle factors, such as dietary intake, interact with the human microbiota in the gut.

Finally, Dr. Chanock discussed current DCEG studies and the importance of leveraging existing resources and facilitating cross-branch collaborations in the design of new population studies. He highlighted the importance of young investigators with expertise in technology and new exposure assessment to help move the field forward. Dr. Chanock also emphasized the importance of team science, building networks, and developing a collaborative environment as key components for a successful research career. 

Speakers and attendees of the sixth annual DCEG Fellows' Training Symposium.

Two poster sessions highlighted the research projects of 26 fellows. These session included both a traditional poster session and an interactive poster session, in which fellows were assigned to small groups to present and/or listen to poster presentations on multidisciplinary topics. Kristin Moy, Ph.D., a DCEG postdoctoral fellow, said, “A highlight of the symposium is the opportunity to hear about the great work other fellows across DCEG are doing and identify common research interests.”

The symposium concluded with a question and answer session featuring DCEG investigator Charles Matthews, Ph.D., and Drs. Patel and David. The speakers shared their career experiences and provided advice on career development and strategies for developing and getting involved in studies as a young investigator.

“The career panel offered an excellent opportunity to hear from experts in the cancer epidemiology field who have taken diverse paths in their careers,” said DCEG postdoctoral fellow Ashley Felix, Ph.D., M.P.H. “Their insightful feedback will be particularly useful as I plan my future career steps.”