On a Sunday evening in June I arrived to a purple sky over snow-capped mountains in stunning Snowmass village, Colorado, to attend the FASEB conference on ‘Cell signalling in cancer: From mechanisms to therapy’. As a 2nd year PhD student in the Randall Division at King’s College London studying the endocytosis and trafficking of EGFR directed antibody drug conjugates in lung cancer I was enthusiastic to hear the latest from the leaders in the field.

The keynote lecture was given by Joseph Schlessinger, Yale University. Setting the tone for the following 4 days, expertly summarising the importance of RTKs in cellular function, and the effects dysregulation of these essential receptors can have on cancer initiation and progression.

In the following days we heard a parade of accomplished and exciting research including further clarification of mechanisms of essential signalling pathways in cancer progression, to novel therapeutic approaches using combined therapy. In the humble opinion of this PhD student, some of the standout research came from Claus Jorgensen (CRUK Manchester) displaying work done on cell specific proteomics in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, Carsten Shultz (EMBL Heidelberg) with his exciting ‘novel ways to image and manipulate signalling networks’, along with a surprise departure from the abstract booklet from Richard Marais (CRUK Manchester), leading us through his story of how Lox regulates breast cancer proliferation through EGFR and it’s interaction with the extracellular matrix proteins. Personally I would have liked to have heard a bit more on novel therapeutic approaches, as there was a lot of focus on combination therapies of current drugs and drug targets. But, with the exception of Dr Shultz, who showed us new ways to not only image the protein interactions in the signalling cascades but potentially target these as well, most of the focus for treatments was of re-purposing mainly small molecule inhibitors and currently available drugs that have been proved largely ineffective in their current usage due to the emergence of secondary mutations or compensation by other members of their intended pathway.

Our days were peppered with opportunities to talk science with formalised ‘meet the speaker’ sessions, as well as informal breakout points. A white knuckle white water rafting group activity allowed an even more casual (if a little nerve wracked) opportunity to interact with other attendees.

All things taken into account this was a really nice conference. The level of research presented was really high, with a lot of speakers presenting unpublished work. Every attendee including speakers were requested to present a poster, which made for some great discussion at the poster sessions, and a good opportunity to speak to some of the more senior attendees about their work. If this conference seems like it might be relevant to your work and you are considering attending, I would recommend it. It runs every two years, so the next conference will be in 2018 (they are proposing UK and European locations alongside the US, so it may be geographically closer next time if you are UK based).

Thank you Biochemical society and British Society of cell biology for  awarding me a travel grant towards the costs of my attendance of this great conference, and to the organisers, speakers and participants for a really interesting week.

Written by Brooke Lumicisi