Press Release

2 Jul 2014

Van Andel Institute hosts world-renowned cancer experts at fifth annual Origins of Cancer symposium

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More than 300 researchers, educators and students are expected to attend this year’s event

Grand Rapids, Mich. (July 2, 2014) – Van Andel Institute will host the fifth annual Origins of Cancer symposium, Friday, July 11, 2014.

The one-day symposium, held in partnership with the Foundation for Advanced Cancer Studies, Inc. (FACS), brings together medical and scientific experts from around the world to discuss the origins of cancer. This year’s theme, Beyond the Tumor Cell, highlights inflammation and immune evasion in cancer, the tumor microenvironment and other systemic factors that impact the development and progression of cancer.

The scientific event features presentations from noted international cancer experts representing research and medical centers such as University of Notre Dame, the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University of Rochester and University of California. More than 300 research professionals, educators and students are expected to attend this year’s event.

The event is organized by Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS) students as a graduate-level course in scientific event planning and is part of VAIGS’s inquiry-based curriculum. VAIGS students Drew Howard, Eric Nollet and Dr. Nikki Thellman planned this year’s event.

“It’s a great way to hear about advancements in cancer research and discuss where the science is headed,” Thellman said. “It’s also a fantastic opportunity to meet with researchers and professionals from all over the country and start thinking about where you might want to complete a postdoctoral fellowship.”

Dr. Nick Duesbery, associate professor in the Institute’s Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and head of the Laboratory of Cancer and Developmental Cell Biology, views the symposium as an important event for students involved in cancer research.

“Origins of Cancer allows undergraduate and graduate level students the opportunity to network with some of the best scientists in the world,” Duesbery said. “The interactions that take place between scientists and students at the symposium really become important down the road when these students begin their job search.”

Attendees can connect with speakers and participate in dialogues regarding a vast array of cancer-related topics. Past speakers have included world-renowned scientists such as Dr. James Watson, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work determining the structure of DNA.

Origins of Cancer also provides scientific leaders with a chance to support the next generation of researchers and educators. According to Duesbery, this kind of mentorship is a professional responsibility and an important part of working in the scientific community.

“When you go through graduate school and receive that kind of training, someone took the time to mentor you through it,” Duesbery said. “Now as a professional, you’re obligated to help other people through that process.”

Duesbery and Thellman are encouraged by the event’s success and are optimistic that future organizers will continue to introduce the event to new audiences and garner support from local and national partnerships.

For more information and to register for Origins of Cancer, please visit www.vai.org/vari. Registration is $50.00 for students and $100.00 for non-students (breakfast and lunch is provided).