By Martin Read, Senior Research Fellow, University of Birmingham
This is the leading national UK endocrinology conference in which more than 500 abstracts were submitted by clinicians, basic scientists and students. In the end it turned out to be quite a busy conference for me as I co-chaired a session on “Endocrinology meets the environment” with Matthew Simmonds from Oxford University, presented a poster on “p53 response profiling in transgenic mouse models” and gave an oral presentation on “Functional consequences of germline mutations in a novel non-RET medullary thyroid cancer susceptibility gene”.
Overall, I found this meeting very interesting and gained new insights into new areas of endocrinology. My particular highlight of the meeting was an excellent overview by Thomas Giordano (Ann Arbor, MI, USA) on “TCGA genomic characterisation of papillary thyroid carcinomas”. It was fascinating to watch his presentation on how a $12 million dollar research budget was used to sequence and characterise almost 500 thyroid tumours. The output of this research has led to the identification of nearly all drivers of papillary thyroid cancer, and should lead to a precise molecular classification system for diagnostic purposes, particularly for different sub-types of BrafV600E mutant tumours. Another stimulating talk was given by Randall Platt (Boston, MA, USA) on the potential application of gene editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 in endocrinology. This technology has emerged as a real “hot” topic of research in the past couple of years and it was intriguing to find out how it can be used to knock-out and knock-in genes both in vitro and in mice. I suspect that most UK labs will be incorporating this technique into their experimental plans in the next few years.
I also met and spoke to Jo Grey which is of particular interest as she is the CEO and Chair of the Trustee Board of the Association for Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Disorders (AMEND) charity. Jo described the important activities of the AMEND charity in supporting patients and their families with MEN disorders in the UK. The AMEND charity, as well as the Get-ahead Charitable Trust , are currently funding some of the on-going research on thyroid cancer at Birmingham.
This meeting was important to me as I am just a few months away from the end of my current contract and in the process of writing grant proposals and submitting manuscripts. I am hopeful that what I have learnt from this conference will enable me to write competitive grants and more up to date papers. At the very least I believe that I have made a few useful contacts in the endocrine research community. I am scheduled to lecture to undergraduate students on endocrinology in the forthcoming weeks and I plan to update my slides with new research findings presented at this conference to make my lectures more relevant.
The travel grant I received from the Biochemical Society was crucial to enable me to attend and participant at this meeting and I am thankful for this award.