Day-long Wilmot Symposium Covers Cancer Biology, Latest Treatments (and whales!)

Nov. 14, 2014

Exciting new studies of targeted cancer treatments, the amazing longevity of bowhead whales, and the changing roles of pathologists were among the topics covered at the 19th Annual Scientific Symposium sponsored by the Wilmot Cancer Institute on Nov. 13.

whalesApproximately 200 faculty, students, and invited guests filled the Class of ’62 auditorium to learn about the latest research at Wilmot. The Institute also highlighted six posters for excellence, and presented the annual Davey Award to Andrei Seluanov and Vera Gorbunova, of the UR Department of Biology, for their groundbreaking work in studying the cancer-resistant naked mole rat, which lives an average of 32 years without developing age-related diseases. One explanation: the cells of the mole rat secrete an abundance of hyaluronan (HA), a protective substance. Their lab is investigating possible therapies based on this discovery, as well as why some other species (whales) are resistant to malignancies.

The day-long symposium was capped by a lecture from Lewis C. Cantley, of the Weill Cornell Medical College. Cantley, also a newly elected member of the Institute of Medicine, is widely recognized for his transformative discovery of a cancer signaling pathway known as phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), a commonly mutated gene across many cancers. PI3K is involved in cell metabolism and diabetes; he discussed the progress of several national clinical trials for drugs that target the PI3K mutation to treat cancer. One recently approved PI3K-related therapy, Idelalisib, is being prescribed to Wilmot patients to stabilize lymphoma.

The Symposium and keynote lectures are made possible by generous contributions from the Davey and Underberg families.