Annual Scientific Retreat 2009

Dear Friends of Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure,

In October, we hosted our annual scientific meeting at the Cavallo Point Conference Center in Sausalito, California.  The goal each year is to bring together a select group of the top brain cancer thinkers to talk about the most recent and important advances in the field.  We then use those discussions as a base to look forward and see where we might make the most progress over the coming months.

This year we had scientists from world renowned academic research institutions (e.g., Harvard and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, CalTech, M.D. Anderson, Duke, UCLA, University of Florida, the Mayo Clinic, and the Institute for Systems Biology), from leading pharmaceutical companies (e.g. Genentech, Eli Lilly, Isis and Glaxo SmithKline) and from emerging biotech companies (e.g., Nodality, Siena Biotech, CombinatoRx and Arresto Biosciences).  We also had leading clinicians like Drs. Greg Foltz from Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Al Yung from M.D. Anderson in Houston and Tim Cloughesy from UCLA, as well as leaders from government, other non-profit brain cancer organizations and venture capital firms.  Overall, 64 people joined us for the meeting, coming from as far as Italy (Siena Biotech) and China (GSK).

Our interview with Dr. Anna Barker, NCI’s Deputy Director for Advanced Technologies and Strategic Partnerships kicked-off the discussions.  This far-reaching and forward-looking talk set the stage for the whole meeting.  The discussions that followed looked at the important ramifications of the recently completed Cancer Genome Atlas for GBM and explored the work now underway using that revolutionary foundation.  Others centered on key issues and new developments in diagnostics, biomarkers, drug delivery and personalized treatment approaches.  An entire module focused on cells that promote brain cancer progression — otherwise known as cancer progenitor cells or cancer stem cells.  These cells, which appear to play a key role in cancer recurrence, offer great opportunity for the development of important new therapies.

One of the best things about this year’s meeting was that the participants came with inquisitive, creative and open minds.  They were looking for new ideas and for new ways to work together to make the greatest possible impact on this disease.  It has only been a few weeks since the meeting concluded, but we have already seen over a dozen new collaborative projects initiated.  One of our roles at ABC² is to create an environment where those project ideas can come to life, but it is also important that we then find ways to help nurture them along and those efforts are underway now.  When we get back together for our meeting next year, we want this year’s projects to form the basis for even more exciting new discussions, ideas and projects going forward.

We all understand that finding a cure for a disease as complex as brain cancer is a difficult challenge and that getting to a cure will come in steps.  ABC²’s goal is to help make that effort go faster – to accelerate the process.  We believe that this year’s meeting was an important part of our overall effort.  We know that people are counting on us and we take that seriously.  This is an overall team effort and we appreciate all of your support.  If you have questions, or want to learn more about the conference or our other projects, please feel free to contact me.  We are all in this effort together.