On Wednesday, May 18th 2016, approximately 250 grade 7-12 students from 6 schools across Kingston and the surrounding area gathered at Queen’s University to learn more about the field of cancer research during the second annual Let’s Talk Cancer Symposium hosted by the Kingston branch of the Canadian Cancer Society Research Information Outreach Team (RIOT) in collaboration with Let’s Talk Science, Queen’s chapter. The outreach event began with introductions by Dr. Roger Deeley (Vice-Dean Research, Faculty of Health Sciences), Dr. David Berman (Director, Queen’s Cancer Research Institute), and Doug Kane (Manager, Canadian Cancer Society, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington & The Waterways Community Office). The students were then shown a real-life example of the impact of cancer research through a video about Elana Simon, a teenager diagnosed with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma who worked at Rockefeller University to identify the mutation underlying the disease.
To provide the students an overall introduction to cancer biology, RIOT members presented on important aspects of cancer research, such as cancer biology, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, stem cell therapy, and hot topics in cancer research. Keynote addresses were presented by Dr. Michael Brundage (Director, Cancer Care and Epidemiology), Dr. Andrew Craig (Associate Professor, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) and Dr. Lois Mulligan (Professor, Pathology). While Dr. Brundage spoke on the complex decisions a patient has to make after being diagnosed with cancer, Dr. Craig spoke about the exciting field of precision medicine, and Dr. Mulligan emphasized the importance of collaborating in the field of cancer research. After a morning of talks, students enjoyed lunch partially sponsored by Pita Pit and had the opportunity to speak with Queen’s Admissions and Career Services as well as peruse research posters from RIOT members.
In the afternoon, students were divided into groups to participate in hands-on sessions. The highlight of the afternoon for most students was the anatomy museum. With the expertise of Dr. Bruce Elliott (Professor, Pathology), students were able to see first-hand what cancer does to the body in order, emphasizing the complex anatomical nature of this disease. A look into the world of medical physics and imaging with Dr. Andrew Kerr (Associate Professor, Oncology and Physics) gave insight into the medical physics facilities at Queen’s University while explaining the importance of medical radiation. Another highlight was the career session with RIOT members and Siobhan McArdle (SE Ontario Regional Hospice Education Coordinator) where interactive activities were used to introduce students to the various careers that are possible in the field of cancer research. Overall, the day proved to be an interactive and educational experience for students and we hope it helped inspire the next generation of cancer researchers.
This article was written by Catherine Crawford-Brown, a M.Sc candidate in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, and part of the Collaborative Graduate Program in Cancer Research at Queen’s University.