Scientists from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the center’s sister institution in England, King’s College London, came together in Chapel Hill to brainstorm new ideas and identify opportunities for collaborations that will drive cancer discovery forward.
Across two days in June, scientists held sessions on breast cancer and immunotherapy research, with a focus on identifying cooperative initiatives and funding opportunities.
“We picked out some really interesting and important pieces of science where we can see the synergies, so we can bring our different institutional strengths and expertise to bear upon the problems,” said Peter Parker, head of the Division of Cancer Studies at King’s College London and deputy director of the King’s Health Partners Integrated Cancer Centre. “I think it’s rather exciting for the people in the room. It’s not about one person working with one other person, it’s not a simple bilateral between two laboratories; this is a little more strategic. We are here representing an entire institution, or group of institutions.”
In addition to sharing findings from their ongoing research, Parker said the scientists discussed technical advances and tools to help them analyze data.
“(We have been) standing back and saying ‘what are our capabilities, what is it we need to do to improve (patient) outcomes, how do we then bring to bear our expertise and capabilities to deliver the sorts of things that we might wish to be able to accomplish,’” Parker said.
UNC Lineberger’s Lisa A. Carey, physician-in-chief of the North Carolina Cancer Hospital and the Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research, highlighted research findings from a study involving investigators from the two institutions, including UNC Lineberger’s Charles M. Perou, the May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology, Genetics and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
In May, researchers led by Andrew Tutt, director of the Breast Cancer Now Research Unit for King’s College, and in collaboration with UNC Lineberger scientists, published a study in Nature Medicine that explored chemotherapy sensitivity for women with triple negative breast cancer and different types of BRCA alterations.
“By combining our expertise, we have already made contributions to breast cancer clinical science that we hope will improve treatment selection for patients with triple negative breast cancer and BRCA mutations,” Carey said. “We hope to see many more important collaborative projects come out of this partnership.”
UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and Katie Bowler Young, director of global relations for UNC Global, addressed the group of scientists and physicians, underscoring their support for the partnership. Folt emphasized the importance of cancer research, and asked what the university can do to support the researchers’ work.
“If anyone asked you about the real places at UNC-Chapel Hill that were of international prominence, this is one of our most important areas,” Folt said. “(We are) excited about the partnership, and are really looking forward to doing what we can to make it successful.”