By Nicolas Soputro, second year medical student
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.
Note: This write-up was later published in Chiron 2017.