Re-Translate 2016

Melbourne Medical School Student Ambassadors present a cancer symposium for students and alumni

Jason Tan, Kara Donchi, Kate Naish, Professor Grant McCarthur, Yeung-Ae Park, Alma Shonken, Nicolas Soputro.

The Re-Translate Symposia in Translational Science are annual events presented by the Melbourne Medical School Student Ambassadors. The series began in 2015 to celebrate four key research themes of Melbourne Medical School: namely neuroscience, cancer, microbiology and immunology, and paediatrics.

In 2016, the second episode of Re-Translate brought a keen audience of current medical students and alumni to the newly-opened Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) to explore the latest developments in cancer prevention and treatment.

Choosing cancer as the topic for the second Re-Translate event was closely tied to the opening of the VCCC which cemented Parkville’s position as one of the primary hubs for cancer research in Australia.

Together with Professor Sean Grimmond, the Director of the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research (UMCCR) and the Bertalli Chair in Cancer Medicine, the Medical School Student Ambassadors led by Yeung-Ae Park asked four leading clinical researchers to present at Re-Translate to explain the frontiers of personalised cancer treatment.

The four researchers were Professor Ingrid Winship, (Chair of Adult Clinical Genetics, The University of Melbourne and Executive Director of Research, Melbourne Health), Professor Andrew Robert (Head of Clinical Translation, Cancer and Haematology, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute), Associate Professor Clare Scott, (Laboratory Head, Stem Cells and Cancer, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute), and Professor Grant McArthur, (Executive Director of the VCCC, the inaugural Lorenzo Galli Chair in Melanoma and Skin Cancers at the University of Melbourne and Department of Oncology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre).

These remarkable leaders shared their passions and invited us into the fascinating world of cancer research. They walked us through the thought process behind all the recent breakthroughs in this area of medicine.

Professor Winship opened the night by outlining the importance of personalised medicine for prevention of cancers and sketching the future of this field. This was followed by Professor Robert’s story of his team’s groundbreaking use of the Bcl-2 gene in the treatment of haematological malignancies. Associate Professor Scott described her application of patient-derived xenographs to set therapeutic targets for ovarian tumours, which may also be applied to other malignancies in the future. Professor McArthur closed the evening by highlighting the use of genome sequencing for directed therapy in melanoma.

The rich history and vibrant community of the Melbourne Medical School means that its students and alumni have very diverse medical backgrounds, expertise and experience. Hence, it is challenging to produce an event for alumni and current medical students that is both accessible and intellectually stimulating to all. The Medical School Student Ambassadors were very fortunate to have Professor Grimmond assist them rise to that challenge. Together they created an event that not only enticed a broad group of people to attend the symposium, but stimulated questions and conversations that flowed from the auditorium out into the foyer, where participants continued to discuss developments over drinks and canapés.

The night was a great success in terms of the presentations. It was also a success in bringing together alumni, medical students and professional partners. There was a growing sense that all are part of the Melbourne Medical School community.

In 2017 the research theme for Re-Translate will be Microbiology and Immunology. Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, will host researchers and clinicians to speak about their area of expertise and join in a panel discussion about the emerging global public health challenge of antibiotic resistance. The Re-Translate Symposium 2017 will take a broad view of the problem of antibiotic resistance, identify promising approaches, and highlight the coordinated actions we can take to tackle this major global threat to human health.

ReTranslate III: Antibiotic Resistance will take place on 6 September in the Peter Doherty Institute Auditorium. Doors will open at 5.30pm for a 6pm start and canapés and drinks will be served after the panel discussion. Registrations will open in August so keep an eye on the MDHS website.

Nicolas Soputro
(BSc 2013, current student MD3)