The National Cancer Research Institute Annual Conference

Our own Kat Arney reports from the National Cancer Research Institute Annual Conference in Birmingham...
04 October 2009

Interview with 

Dr Kat Arney


Kat -  Well this is a conference that's organized by the National Cancer Research Institute, the NCRI, which is kind of a virtual institute.  They're an umbrella that brings together all the funders of cancer research in the UK.  So organizations like Cancer Research UK, Leukaemia Research, some pharmaceutical companies, basically to make sure that everyone is doing cancer research in a good way, not missing any areas and not duplicating too much work.  So it's really - it was setup a few years ago to address the fact that people didn't really know what was going on in other labs.  So basically, this is a conference where cancer researchers from all over the UK, from all over the world, get together to talk about the latest results to discuss collaborations.  And it's not only scientists here, but there's doctors, nurses and also patient groups here as well.  So, it's a really diverse range of people.

NCRI Cancer ConferenceChris -   Now every year, when you go to the NCRI conference, you come back with some new hot kid on the biological block.  So, what are the hot topics in cancer research this year?

Kat -   Well, there's just been a talk this afternoon and by a chap called Larry Norton who's from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York and it was really, really interesting.  When you think about cancer that starts to spread, there's this idea that there's a starting tumour and cancer cells go off around the body and find new places to go, such as the lungs, the liver, and they start new tumours.  His idea is while that cancer is growing, stem cells; spreading cells, they go off, they travel around the body and then they come back to the original tumour, and they start growing there, so this idea of self-seeding.  And what he's proposing is that, say, you treat this original tumour, you get rid of it with surgery, with radiotherapy, with chemotherapy.  There are still these cells, out travelling in the body like the prodigal son, and they try to come back, but there's no original tumour there and they think, "Well, I should go somewhere else" and then they go and start growing in the lungs, in the liver and in the brain.

Chris -   So by chopping out the cancer paradoxically, the primary tumour, we could be encouraging the process to spread?

Cancer Research UKKat -   Well, that's basically the idea and his ideas are really very new and at the moment, he's only got research in mouse models that might support this.  But it's certainly an intriguing idea and he's got all sorts of ideas of how he might use this to treat cancer for example.  So basically, the idea that the original tumour is acting like a kind of a sponge absorbing back in these cancer cells.  So, it could be, we make some kind of fake sponge that would then mop up the cells that have started spreading?  Can we find out the signals that they're giving out and try and mimic them or block them that might stop cancer cells spreading?  And he's designing some  cancer intuitive regimes of different drugs you might give that would actually help to stop this process and treat cancer more effectively.  So, there's some really exciting work to be done in the future there, I think.

Chris -   Okay.  Well Kat, thank you very much.

You can keep up with the latest news and videos from the NCRI conference
on the Cancer Research UK Blog.


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