CBTCE International Summer School 2024 – Childhood Brain Tumour Research In The Era Of Big Data: Confirmed Speaker Announcement

17 August 2023

Applications are now open, you can find the form here 

We are delighted to confirm that Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani will be a keynote speaker at the Centre’s International Summer School 2024.

Bissan Al-Lazikani FRSB MBCS is a data scientist and drug discoverer with experience in academia and industry. She is Professor, Genomic Medicine; Director of Discovery Data Science and founding faculty of the Data Science Institute at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Prior to this, she was Head of Data Science at the Institute of Cancer Research, London. She is formally trained in biology and computer science: BSc Molecular Biology from University College, London; MSc Computer Science from Imperial College, London; PhD Computational Biology from the University of Cambridge, and Howard Hughes postdoctoral fellowship Biophysics, Columbia University, NY. She co-led the creation of the groundbreaking ChEMBL database. Then she led the creation of the world’s largest public drug discovery knowledgebase, canSAR, integrating vast multidisciplinary data; and leading suite of AI-driven drug discovery analysis algorithms. She applies these to discovery novel drugs and optimize therapy for adult and pediatric cancers.



We are also  delighted to announce that Dr Michael Taylor will be a keynote speaker at the Centre’s International Summer School 2024.

Michael D. Taylor, MD, PhD, is a pediatric neurosurgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) and a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics – Hematology/Oncology and Neurosurgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston. He is also the Director of the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Research Program at TCH and a CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research. His research centres on the molecular genetics of medulloblastoma and ependymoma, two of the most common malignant paediatric brain tumours. He has published over 400 peer-reviewed publications, many in high-impact journals such as Nature, Science, Cell, Cancer Cell, and Lancet Oncology. His publications have been cited over 60,000 times and his findings adopted to improve clinical practice. His group demonstrated that medulloblastoma is comprised of at least four distinct diseases (Journal Clin. Oncol., 2012; Cancer Cell, 2017; Nature, 2017) and that there is clinically significant heterogeneity in metastatic medulloblastomas (Nature, 2012, 2016; Nature Genetics, 2017).

His team showed that cerebellar tumours are a disorder of early brain development (Nature, 2019; Nature 2022), that CAR-T-cells are an effective pre-clinical treatment for Group 3 medulloblastoma and PFA ependymomas (Nature Medicine, 2020) and that PFA ependymomas have a unique metabolic program which leads to a phenotype that appears to be unique among mammalian cells (Cell, 2020).

We are excited to announce that Dr Alex Bruna will be a distinguished speaker at the Centre’s International Summer School 2024.

Dr Alex Bruna is a Team Leader in the Institute of Cancer Research, in her previous position, she led and managed the development of a large preclinical platform for studying cancer’s heterogeneity and its interplay with treatment, involving improved preclinical models derived from breast cancer patients. As part of this platform, they pioneered a cost-effective intermediate in drug development with the potential for increased predictive value using patients’ cancer cells ex vivo and high-throughput systems. To further define the predictive capabilities of this preclinical platform, they evaluated patients’ response to treatment in humans and mice within the context of an ongoing clinical trial, a necessary step towards the best use of PDXs in real-time clinical decision-making.

Dr Alex Bruna’s extensive experience and expertise in preclinical modelling and cancer evolution and motivated by the cause and the urgent clinical unmet need that high-risk paediatric tumours bear, she chose to transfer her interests from breast to children’s cancer.  She started her lab, the Preclinical Modelling of Paediatric Cancer Evolution team in 2020 at the Centre for Paediatric Oncology Experimental Medicine and at the Centre for Cancer Evolution at the Institute of Cancer Research in London. Currently, her group focuses on cancer   evolutionary studies using improved preclinical mouse and human-derived cancer models of solid paediatric cancers that faithfully recapitulate the biology and major clinical features of the children’s disease.

They also employ innovative single-cell technologies to trace cell and transcriptional dynamics in disease and in response to treatment, aiming to generate an in-depth atlas of cancer progression in space and time for the development of innovative, refined, and rationalized therapeutic strategies. Recently, they have designed and are developing innovative molecular tools to record the history of individual cells in evolving preclinical models of high-risk children’s cancer.

They are strongly passionate about adapting innovative single-cell technologies to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying disease progression and to help bring kinder and smarter treatments for this devastating disease.

We are also excited to announce that Jeremy Rich will be a distinguished speaker at the Centre’s International Summer School 2024.

Jeremy N. Rich, MD, MHS, MBA serves as Deputy Director for Research at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Pittsburgh Foundation Chair in Personalized Cancer Therapy, and Professor of Neurology at University of Pittsburgh. Recently, he served as Director of Neuro-Oncology, Director of the Brain Tumor Institute, Co-Director of Solid Tumor Therapeutics, and Professor of Medicine and Neurosciences at University of California, San Diego. Previously, he served as Chair of the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Cleveland Clinic and Co-Director of the National Center for Regenerative Medicine. He serves patients afflicted with brain cancer through clinical care and laboratory research on cancer stem cell biology. His group has made contributions in the molecular targeting of brain cancer stem cells and their roles in therapeutic resistance and angiogenesis.


Adding to our line up we are so thrilled to announce that Kevin Brindle will be a distinguished speaker at the Centre’s International Summer School 2024.

Kevin Brindle is Emeritus Professor of Biomedical Magnetic Resonance in the Department of  Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge and a Senior Group Leader in the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.  He got his BA (Biochemistry,1978) and D. Phil (1982) in Oxford, before becoming a Royal Society University Research Fellow in 1986.  He moved to a lectureship in Manchester in 1990 and in 1993 to a lectureship in Cambridge, where he became Professor in 2005. The focus of his work is to develop novel imaging methods to detect cancer, disease progression and to monitor early tumour responses to treatment.  He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2012, a Fellow of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences in 2014, a Fellow of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in 2020 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2020. He was President of the European Society for Molecular Imaging in 2018 and was awarded the European Society of Molecular Imaging Award in 2013 and the Gold Medal of the World Molecular Imaging Society in 2014.

Joining our excellent list of speakers we are thrilled to announce that Dr Raj Jena will be a distinguished speaker at the Centre’s International Summer School 2024.

I am a group leader in machine learning & radiomics in the Department of Oncology at the University of Cambridge and an honorary consultant in neuro-oncology at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. I am responsible for a multi-disciplinary group who work to develop novel computational models in Oncology. I am deputy director of the £8.2M Cancer Research UK funded RadNet Cambridge research programme, and is Principal Investigator of Hamlet.rt, the first prospective machine learning study in radiation therapy for patients with brain tumours and cancers of the lung, prostate and Head & Neck regions. I have developed computational models for NHS England, the Royal College of Radiologists, and commercial partners including Elekta and Accuray, as well as OSAIRIS, the first open source AI medical device to be developed within the NHS. As director of the NIHR Oncology Research Collaboration (O-TRC) I facilitate collaboration between and beyond the NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs).

We are so excited that Madeline Lancaster agreed to be a distinguished speaker at the Centre’s International Summer School 2024.

Dr Madeline Lancaster is a Group Leader in the Cell Biology Division of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), part of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in Cambridge, UK. Madeline joined the LMB in 2015, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) in Vienna, where she developed brain organoids.

Research in the Lancaster lab focuses on human brain development using stem cells to generate brain organoids that allow modelling of human brain development in vitro. The laboratory studies the most fundamental differences between human brain development and that of other mammalian species. The lab also studies cellular mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and intellectual disability.

Madeline was awarded the 3Rs Prize by the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) in 2015 for her development of brain organoids, and was chosen as an EMBO Young Investigator in 2019. She was awarded the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) Dr Susan Lim Award for Outstanding Young Investigator and a Vallee Scholarship in 2021. Madeline was honoured as the Laureate for Life Sciences in the Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists in the UK and was elected an EMBO member in 2022.

We are proud to announce that Dr Neil Thompson will be a distinguished speaker at the Centre’s International Summer School 2024.

Neil brings over 35 years of experience in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries and a strong background working across a breadth of disease areas. Across his career, he has been involved in progressing more than 10 drugs into patients and has led a number of drug discovery projects across a variety of therapeutic areas (oncology, cardiovascular, neurology, inflammation).

Neil was Senior Vice President of Biology at Astex Pharmaceuticals for 15 years, leading the biology and pre-clinical teams whose work has resulted in three new cancer drugs reaching the market in the last six years:-

Kisqali (targeted for breast cancer) which came to market through Novartis in 2017;
Balversa the first targeted drug for bladder cancer through a collaboration with J&J’s Janssen
and Truqap which derived from a partnership with ICR and AstraZeneca and which gained market approval this year for the treatment of HR-positive, HER2-negative locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

From 2019 until May 2023 Neil was Chief Scientific Officer with Healx Ltd. where he built and led a team using AI to find new treatments for patients with rare diseases. In this role he helped establish a portfolio of more than 20 disease projects and progressed 2 of these to the IND stage ready for clinical trials.

For 7 years Neil was panel member and Deputy Chair of the UK MRC DPFS panel and continues in his role as Chair of the MRC CLD/ADI committee. More recently he has returned his focus to supporting charities, biotech companies and academic groups as a consultant on their drug discovery and development strategies.

Neil’s earlier career included Director of the Immunology Platform at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), he has authored more than 40 publications and patents, and sits on and Chairs the advisory boards of several scientific institutions in the UK. He received his doctorate in Biochemistry from Kings College London.

Adding to our excellent line up we are very pleased to announce that Prof Amos Burke will be a distinguished speaker at the Centre’s International Summer School 2024.

Amos Burke is Professor of Paediatric Oncology at the University of Birmingham and an Honorary Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at Birmingham, Women and Children’s Hospital. He is Director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) and leads research strategy for one of the UK’s largest and an internationally important clinical trials units that delivers a trial portfolio over a wide range of cancers occurring in children, young people and adults. His research is focussed on childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Currently he is Chief Investigator for the innovative platform trial Glo-BNHL for children with relapsed and refractory mature B-cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Prof Amos Burke

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