Author: Cathy Samayoa | Category: Beyond The Bench | December 23, 2015
Cathy Samaoya, graduate student in the Cellular and Structural Biology Ph.D. program, received an American Association For Cancer Research Scholar-In-Training Award for her poster at the San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium. Below is her description of the conference.
The 38th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium just wrapped up, and brought together more than 8000 people from around
SABCS is a joint effort presented by the Cancer Therapy Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, Baylor College of Medicine, and the American Association For Cancer Research.
It is the largest breast cancer symposium in the world, and brings
together clinicians, scientists, advocates, and trainees to learn and present
their research on breast cancer.
Since moving to San Antonio in 2011, I’ve been lucky enough
to attend SABCS every year. For students, attendance to SABCS is free of cost,
and is a great opportunity to build a network and foundation of understanding.
The first day of the symposium is especially helpful to
trainees and early-career scientist, this is when the educational sessions and
career development forum take place.
The career development forum provides opportunities to network
and learn from experts in the field.
For trainees, this is a good time to
network with the experts, this is a special time set aside for about 200
trainees to speak with experts and pick their brain.
For the rest of the meeting they tend to get busy and it can
be hard to talk to them given that they usually have a line of people waiting
to speak to them. This year, the career
development forum covered various topic, including:
- Improving presentation skills
- Careers in industry
- Choosing a mentor
- Grant writing
Also on the first day, they symposiums provides a venue to
build a foundation of knowledge through the educational sessions. The
educational sessions do a great job of preparing the attendees for the larger
and more focused general sessions.
This year UTHSCSA’s own, Dr. Pothana Saikumar moderated the educational session on
“Integration of Metabolism and Tumor Biology.” Another very interesting session
was “Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity in Breast Cancer,” which was moderated by
renowned Dr. Carlos Arteaga. This
session focused on the role of IGF/insulin signaling, adipokines and the use of
metformin and lifestyle change in breast cancer.
Together the educational sessions are a great way to get up
to speed on techniques, signaling pathways, and therapies relevant to breast
During the general sessions and poster discussions, I also
get to learn about how cutting-edge technologies are being applied to breast
For example, circulating cell-free tumor DNA is being
investigated in efforts of identifying diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers of
breast cancer and of recurrence.
One of the findings from the BOLERO-2 clinical trial, found
that among patients with ERα+ metastatic breast cancer, investigators were able
to identify mutations in the ESR1
gene using cell-free DNA obtained from blood samples.
Those patients with the mutations had worse median time
overall survival. Interestingly, last year, Dr. Susan Fuqua from Baylor College of Medicine moderated a
sessions on ESR1 mutations in metastatic
breast cancer, something she discovered and published many years ago.
This year, the symposium focused on:
- Personalized medicine
- Targeted therapies
- Mechanism of therapy resistance
- Tumor heterogeneity
- Identifying patients who will benefit from
- Mastectomies vs. Lumpectomies
- Utility of liquid biopsies
One of the many highlights of the symposium was Dr. Myles Brown’s lecture titled “Hacking
the Hormone Code in ER+ Breast Cancer.” Dr. Brown, from Dana-Farber Cancer
Institute, is a pioneer in Estrogen Receptor Alpha and was awarded the Susan G.
Komen Brinker award for scientific distinction.
Although the importance of ERα
in breast cancer was identified many years ago, basic research continues to
contribute to the management of breast cancer.
Understanding how ERα interacts with its coregulators, what
it binds to under specific conditions, and how mutations in ESR1 affect biological responses are
still pressing issues in the field.
Dr. Ratna Vadlamudi, professor in the department of OB-GYN at UTHSCSA,
presented his work titled “ESR1 coregulator binding inhibitor (ECBI) as a novel
therapeutic to target hormone therapy resistant metastatic breast cancer” during
the one of the general session.
On Thursday, I presented my poster, for which I was selected
to receive the AACR scholar-in-training award.
I was really excited to be recognized nationally for my work.
poster generated a lot of interest and kept me busy the whole time, so much so
that I forgot to take the quintessential picture standing next to my poster.
After two hours, the lights finally dimmed, signaling that
it was time to go, and I quickly exchanged business cards with my last visitor.
Overall, this symposium provides the perfect balance of
clinical and translational breast cancer research, with ample opportunities to
network and learn from leaders in the field. Attending SABCS is always an
amazing experience for me.
All year, I spend countless hours on PubMed reading the
latest on breast cancer research. At SABCS, I’ve had the opportunity to meet
and mingle with the scientist I look up to; and I often find myself
start-struck amidst a room full of exceptional scientists.
I feel very fortunate to call this my scientific community,
and every year I leave a little more motivated and inspired.
The "Beyond The Bench" series features articles written by students and postdoctoral fellows at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.
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