Researchers, professionals, students share efforts on latest cancer cures

Dr. Dora Cavallo-Medved

A group of students, researchers and health care professionals came together Saturday for a conference in Windsor to share their latest efforts in terms of understanding and fighting cancer.

The third annual Biennial International Cancer Research Conference at Caesars Windsor included 160 participants — many from the local area, but also London, Toronto, Michigan, Halifax and Vancouver.

“The purpose is to bring together people from universities, hospitals and health care professional such as oncologists,” said Dora Cavallo-Medved, a lead organizer for the conference. “The idea is for each of us to learn what the other is doing with respect to cancer research and facilitate collaboration.

“A lot of this is cutting edge research, so we come together and present ideas to each other.”

Topics talked about at the conference included the status of funding cancer research in Canada, what cancer cells are doing in the body, how they progress, plus the environment where they may locate with respect to other tissues in the body.

The conference also presents a great opportunity for University of Windsor undergraduate and graduate students to participate, plus present their own research, Cavallo-Medved said.

“This really gives them an avenue to explore their own goals,” she said.

Among them was 21-year-old Melanie Grondin, a fourth-year neuroscience student at the university who also helped organize the event.

“It’s great opportunity as an undergrad to get that exposure and rub elbows with the big wigs in the industry,” she said.

“Being from Windsor I have a lot of experience with cancer in my own family, as I am sure a lot of people do. So, it’s very rewarding to be able to contribute to the body of knowledge.”

One of the presenters was Ingrid Qemo, a PhD student in biological science at the university. She explained at the conference her four years of research to date around a gene protein that expands the stem cell population in the brain which may create an environment where cells are more susceptible to forming brain tumours.

“The toughest part is always trying to relay your research to the community so they understand the importance to the big picture,” Qemo said.

The biggest misunderstanding is people’s belief in one cure for cancer being out there somewhere, she said.

What everyone seeks to do in reality is collaborate to create a series of drugs or therapies that advance efforts to fight the deadly disease, Qemo said.

“Especially for brain cancers there are not a lot of promising advances,” she said of her own research efforts. “It’s very motivating for me and I also strive every day to motivate my team.”

Having a conference such as the one in Windsor on Saturday which brings professional, students and researchers together is “how you make things happen” by getting feedback and “gaining new insight, as well,” Qemo said.

Source: The Windsor Star