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12.11.17 Cancer theory revisited and debated at interdisciplinary workshop in Austria

last modified Dec 10, 2017 04:23 PM
A 'revised theory of cancer' was discussed at an international workshop in Austria by a high-profile group of cancer cell biologists, clinicians and data scientists to assess the need for a new theoretical paradigm in cancer research
12.11.17 Cancer theory revisited and debated at interdisciplinary workshop in Austria

Physicists and cancer specialists discussing cancer

“This is a historic meeting, and I mean it!”  Larry Norton (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, New York)


A Revised Theory of Cancer was the title of the 35th Altenberg Workshop in Theoretical Biology, held at KLI, Klosterneuburg, Austria, on 9-12 November 2017.

Organised by the Gurdon Institute's Bernhard Strauss along with Mina Bissell (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, CA, USA) and Ingemar Ernberg (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm), the workshop aimed to formulate and - in due course - publish a new conceptual framework of cancer theory.

The select band of invited participants engaged in lively discussion threads on recent cancer data and current concepts, cancer causation and progression, and new data analysis approaches for new insights, reassessing mainstream cancer research.

There was general agreement across disciplines that despite major advances in DNA sequencing that led to the identification of numerous 'cancer mutations', we still have no breakthrough in our fundamental understanding of cancer initiation, progression and approaches to treatment. The workshop was designed as a forum for open discussion and free thinking, taking a sober look at how much we really understand about what cancer is.  The scientists then considered how we can better harness new insights from fields such as epigenetics, tissue micro-environments and big data, and which potentially useful experimental approaches are missing from current research efforts.

Feedback from the participants suggests that the time is indeed ripe for bold new thinking:

“It is clear that cancer research can benefit from some critical self-re-evaluation from within.”  Sui Huang (Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle)

“It was perhaps the single most interesting, inspiring and thought-provoking workshop I have ever attended." Jörg Menche (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

“The workshop gave a tremendously useful synthesis of several emerging, disruptively novel ideas in the cancer development field.” Peter Csermely (Semmelweis University, Budapest)


The publication from the participants is due in 2018.

Studying development to understand disease

The Gurdon Institute is funded by Wellcome and Cancer Research UK to study the biology of development, and how normal growth and maintenance go wrong in cancer and other diseases.

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