Innovative cancer-focused science was once again on display as the HCRI celebrated the 11th Annual Cancer Research Day on March 27, 2023, in the Morris Inn at Notre Dame. The morning began with a highly interactive poster session. Research results from undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral scholars and technical staff were eagerly presented in poster format by 73 well-prepared investigators. New this year was the participation of our Research Cures Cancer Corps (RC3) scholars from our summer 2022 high school program! The three-hour session allowed ample time for questions, debate, exchange of ideas, and proud photos. We would like to acknowledge the hard work of the poster judges who had a challenging time picking the top posters in each category for the Best Poster awards (listed below).
The afternoon commenced with three concurrent sessions of oral presentations from 15 trainees (listed below). This was followed by a Career Panel comprised of former Notre Dame graduate students pursuing non-academic careers. The panel consisted of Dr. Marwa Asem, Senior Scientist II, Oncology Discovery at Abbvie, Chicago, IL; Dr. Ricardo Romero Moreno, Senior Scientist at Astra-Zeneca, Gaithersburg, MD; Dr. Roy Stillwell, CEO and Co-founder at Nearwave, South Bend, IN; and Dr. Katherine Ward, Vice President, Strategic Operations & People Analytics at IQVIA, Durham, North Carolina. The lively Q&A focused on effective strategies to help launch a career after graduate school and gave tremendous insight into the business culture and expectations outside of academia.
The Keynote Session began with a short video featuring two current HCRI graduate students and one undergraduate student who discussed the personal motivations behind their research choices and highlighted the students as individuals outside of the lab. The production team for this year's HCRI Student Produced Film, in partnership with Notre Dame's Department of Film, Television, and Theater, included Joel Mandell, Ted Nagy, Ian Oh, and Grace Beutter. The production team focused on highlighting two graduate students (Janeala Morsby and Sarah Nano) and one undergraduate student (Luke Holen).
The HCRI was honored to host two faculty speakers from the University of Galway participating in the collaborative Biseach Initiative with HCRI. Dr. Sharon Glynn provided a snapshot of her research on the link between nitrosative stress and human endogenous retroviruses in metastatic prostate cancer. Glynn was followed by Dr. Corrado Santocanale who delivered a mechanistic look at CDC7 kinase and regulation of DNA replication dynamics. Dr. Roy Stillwell then presented his translational work with Dr. Tom O’Sullivan on the development of point-of-care optical imaging technology for breast cancer detection.
The session culminated with an inspiring and eye-opening Keynote presentation from Dr. Robert Winn, Director and Lipman Chair in Oncology, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center, Senior Associate Dean for Cancer Innovation and Professor of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine, VCU School of Medicine. As an alumnus of Notre Dame, Dr. Winn recalled how interactions with Fr. Robert Augsten were transformative in directing his educational trajectory toward a career in medicine. Dr. Winn challenged the audience to focus on equity in access to cancer detection and treatment. He introduced the concept that it is not only the tumor mutational profile (i.e., your DNA) that significantly impacts your cancer outcome, but your zip code, or ZNA, as well. Dr. Winn emphasized his belief that the University of Notre Dame in general and HCRI in particular was well positioned to make a significant contribution to overcoming these inequalities.