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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

2017 Fellows' Training Symposium

Big Data and Cancer Research: Ninth Annual DCEG Fellows’ Training Symposium

by Kalpit Shah, Ph.D., and Nghi Lam

Fellows' Symposium participants and presenters

The ninth annual DCEG Fellows’ Training Symposium, titled “Big Data and Cancer Research” was held on Friday, March 10 on the NIH main campus. More than 60 DCEG fellows attended the event, whose planning committee members included co-chairs Dr. Shah and Mr. Lam, and Maria Demarco, M.P.H., Matthew Mille, Ph.D., Lauren Rost, Pedro F. Saint-Maurice, Ph.D., and Edmundo Torres Gonzales. The committee was guided and supported by DCEG’s Office of Education (OE): Jackie Lavigne, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief of OE, Kris Kiser, M.H.A., M.S., and Diane Wigfield.

Michael Dean, Ph.D., Chief of the Laboratory of Translational Genomics, set the tone of the symposium with his talk “Using genomics data to understand cancer evolution.” He provided an overview of molecular mechanisms in cancer evolution and described how he and his team utilize unique “big data” approaches to understand cancer.
Steven Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of the Surgery Branch at the NCI Center for Cancer Research, spoke next about “T cells as a drug for the personalized immunotherapy for cancer.” His impressive talk highlighted how he is using a deep understanding of genetic changes in individual patient tumors to have a direct impact on patient survival.

Dr. Mille explains his poster to a fellow participant

Fellows' symposium poster session

James McClain, Ph.D., M.P.H., Acting Chief Technology Officer, All of Us Research Program at NIH, presented “All of Us Research Program: Current innovation and future opportunities for participant and researcher technology systems.” He described ongoing NIH efforts to build a national, large-scale cohort of over one million volunteers, with the goal of extending precision medicine to all diseases and in diverse populations. He also provided valuable information about how DCEG fellows can get involved with this momentous effort.

Finally, Joseph Tota, Ph.D., M.S., who was selected as the featured DCEG postdoctoral fellow speaker (via a competitive, blinded review of submitted abstracts), presented his talk “An individualized absolute risk model for oropharyngeal cancer in the U.S. population.” He described how he used multiple large datasets to create a model predicting risks of developing oropharyngeal cancer.

More than 25 fellows presented posters on their research. Kelvin de Andrade, M.Sc., Jiyeon Choi, Ph.D., Ashley Jermusyk, Ph.D., Dr. Mille, and Ms. Rost each received an award for best poster presentation.

organizing committee member names are mentioned in the article text

Fellows' Symposium organizers

The symposium concluded with an interactive roundtable networking session. Eleven invited guests, most of whom are DCEG alumni and are experts in their fields, plus Drs. Dean and Lavigne, led discussions on different career categories: NIH-intramural, NIH-extramural, non-NIH federal agencies, academia, industry, non-profit organizations, and policy. The guests included: Dr. Hannah Arem, Dr. Megan Anderson Brooks, Dr. Yewon Cheon, Dr. Sarah Daugherty, Dr. Curt DellaValle, Dr. Elizabeth Hsu, Dr. Tram K. Lam, Dr. Gabriel Lai, Dr. Tamra Meyer, Dr. Arti Patel Varanasi, and Dr. Wei Tang.

“We were pleased with the enthusiasm that fellows brought to the symposium,” said Dr. Lavigne. “It is our hope that this annual event will continue to provide a valuable educational and networking opportunity for fellows seeking to further develop their careers.”