For the first time in 2022, the Oncology & Precision Medicine Conferences were a two-day event with 120 delegates coming together to discuss the current oncology landscape and the future of precision medicine.
The programme focused on Oncology on day one and Precision Medicine on day two, with a special Biotech & Beers networking session taking place on the evening of the first day.
The oncology portion of the conference presented the problems faced with prevention and early diagnosis, before discussing the latest advances to address these challenges and translate the science into better care for patients. Delegates heard from a range of perspectives, including experts, organisations and patient advocacy groups.
The keynote speeches across the two days proved to be insightful and engaging. The first speaker, the Chief Business Officer of Cancer Research UK, Tony Hickson, provided an overview of the world’s largest cancer charity before identifying key areas of potential within the oncology space, namely prevention research, therapeutic innovation and data science. Current and future oncology trends were also highlighted, such as gene editing, greater understanding of protein structures, AI tools and advanced computation, the advent of immuno-oncology and preventative vaccines.
Providing the second keynote of day one, Prof Sherif El-Khamisy, the Director and Associate Dean (R&I) at the University of Bradford, examined the exploitation of DNA repair vulnerabilities both in terms of cell death as seen in degenerative diseases and autoinflammation, and cell survival as in cancer, and how we can better understand cell behaviour.
The second day of the conference focused on the impact precision medicine is having on patients in the detection, treatment and prevention of diseases and, given the strengths in the North, how the approach can be developed in an efficient and sustainable way. Discussions incorporated the development of new diagnostic tests and expanding the use of biomarkers to enable the identification of the molecular cause of disease, supporting the development of novel, more precisely targeted treatments.
Day two’s keynote speeches were kicked off by Professor Roger Phillips, Associate Dean of Research Innovation and Knowledge Exchange at the Department of Pharmacy School of Applied Sciences, University of Huddersfield. He discussed the challenges and opportunities within precision medicine as a cancer treatment, highlighting the changing nature and genome instability of cancer cells as a particular barrier for targeted treatments. One approach to combat this was identified as the development of drugs that have multiple mechanisms of action whilst also retaining selectivity for cancer cells, which, if proven effective, could allow a personalised medicine approach to be applied.
The final keynote of the conference was delivered by Claire Jones, Advanced Biomedical Scientist at NovoPath, with a look at delivery precision pathology for 21st century medicine. The presentation covered how the partnering of clinical and research organisations working in close proximity was shown to enable the development of stratified, translational medicine, with access to some of the rarest diseases and tissues, consultant expertise and digital pathology AI among some of the many advantages.
Commenting on the success of the event, Geoff Davison, CEO of Bionow, said: “We were very excited to be able to host the Oncology and Precision Medicine Conferences in conjunction with each other for the first time - the joint themes went hand in hand. It was great to incorporate a Biotech & Beers networking session as well, which really maximised the potential for delegates to share ideas, immerse themselves in the discussions and get the most out of the conference.”
Gold Sponsor Mills & Reeve’s Partner and Head of Life Sciences, James Fry, commented: “We were delighted to support this conference again. The conference brings together leaders across the sector resulting in really interesting and thought-provoking debate and showcases many of the great things going on within the region.”