EVMS is one of 10 major academic and research institutions in Virginia that took part in the first Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference, held Sept. 22-23, at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville. 

“The conference is an opportunity for students, post-docs, staff, faculty and clinicians at universities and medical schools across Virginia to showcase their research and network with other cancer researchers,” says Aurora Kerscher, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology and a researcher in the EVMS Leroy T. Canoles Jr. Cancer Research Center. 

Bringing trainees, researchers and clinicians together this way, she says, allows them to “cross-pollinate” ideas and jump-start valuable collaborative interactions with their science neighbors. “And a key focus is to provide trainees — students, post-docs and junior faculty— with more experience giving talks and presenting their work,” Dr. Kerscher says. By making the conference free, she explains, the hope was that entire lab groups would more readily attend. “With over 300 registrants from across 10 Virginia institutions and 100 oral presentations planned, the conference showcases the sheer volume of the great science going on in Virginia.” 

Four EVMS students received trainee awards for their work:

  • Cody Phelps, Biomedical Sciences Class of 2019
  • Lauren Siewertsz van Reesema, MD Class of 2019
  • Robert Van Sciver, Biomedical Sciences Class of 2020
  • Sibo Zhang, MD Class of 2020

It also helps raise awareness among other schools of the high-quality research, unique expertise, and advanced facilities and resources at EVMS. “For example, the EVMS biorepository houses one of largest collections of urological specimens in the nation,” Dr. Kerscher says. “This is an exciting time in the cancer field, and I think other schools will be impressed with the work we are doing here.” 

EVMS researchers made 10 presentations in a variety of scientific sessions: Inflammation and Cancer; Metastasis; Brain Cancers and Metastasis; Predictive Markers, Precision Medicine Trials, and Health Disparity Research; Metabolism and Stress Responses; Intracellular Signaling; Communication Within the Tumor Microenvironment; and Gene Regulation in Cancer. A total of 26 EVMS faculty members, research assistants, residents and students were in attendance. 

Michael Green, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Director of the UMMS Cancer Center, gave the keynote address. 

Pictured above: Amy Tang, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology, and researchers in her lab are among the EVMS presenters at the Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference.