CBTCE International Summer School 2024 – Envisaging the future of children’s brain tumour research in the digital age : Confirmed Speaker Announcement

17 August 2023

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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.

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