Wilmot Symposium: Blood Systems, Fruit Flies, Targeted Therapies and More

Nov. 12, 2015

The 20th annual Wilmot Cancer Institute Scientific Symposium on November 12 covered a broad range of topics, from the possible use of medical marijuana to control chemotherapy-induced nausea to testing and building new cancer drugs by using fruit fly genetics.fruit fly

The highlight of the event was the presentation of the Davey Memorial Award for Outstanding Cancer Research. This year’s recipient was James Palis, M.D., UR professor of Pediatric Oncology and Biomedical Genetics, who most recently has been studying the collateral damage imposed on the blood system by radiation therapy, resulting in infections and other complications requiring costly blood transfusions. Palis treated children with cancer and other blood disorders for more than 20 years at Strong Memorial Hospital, while also investigating the blood system. His goal is to identify treatments that can reduce the impact of radiation therapy on blood cells.

Ross L. Cagan, Ph.D., senior associate dean for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Mt. Sinai Hospital, delivered the keynote speech, known as the Alan J. Underberg Lecture. Cagan is a pioneer in using Drosophilia as a model for testing drugs to treat thyroid, colorectal, and other cancers. He has also explored why some targeted therapies prompt a response that quells cancer in the short term but eventually creates resistance by stimulating cancer stem cells. His data shows it’s possible to create complex drug combinations that temper the resistance.

Wilmot presenters included Laura Calvi, M.D., Jason Mendler, M.D., and Paul Barr, M.D., from the blood cancers scientific team; Edward Brown, Ph.D., from Biomedical Engineering, who uses optical techniques to investigate breast cancer metastasis; Luke Peppone, Ph.D., who plans to study medical marijuana to control cancer treatment side effects; and Joe Chakkalakal, Ph.D., who studies the decline of muscle strength and related his topic to cancer prognosis.