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Scholar Retreat

October 10–13, 2019

Chaired By

 Chad Pecot, MD of University of North Carolina

Meeting Description

The Scholar Retreat held annually, invites scholars and mentors to attend a 3-day meeting. This meeting focuses on bringing junior scientists together from various areas of cancer research. The collaborations and innovative ideas that come from this meeting have been numerous and outstanding. The mentors provide great guidance regarding science and career for these junior scientists.

At the Retreat, the Scholars share their research with the other Scholars and Mentors. Each Scholar will participate in four sequential retreats, with all expenses paid by WGFRF. The opportunity for Scholars to connect and form relationships with researchers from completely different areas of cancer research and to have a sort of peer review is one of the most valuable roles of the Retreat. Through the Mentors, the Retreat offers Scholars guidance on practical career issues such as writing grants and preparing successful scientific publications.

Each year, the Scholar Retreat coincides with the Foundation’s annual ‘Blue Jean Ball’ fundraiser. All Scholars attend this event, providing them an opportunity to meet with families whose lives have been directly affected by cancer. This experience resonates particularly with scientists who, unlike clinicians, do not have contact with patients, by putting a human face on cancer.

Meeting Summary

The scholars of the 2019 retreat covered a diverse range of cancer topics, which included immune therapies, chromosome abnormalities, cancer predisposition and MYC genes. Although the scientists work on these seemingly disparate fields, it was amazing to see how many ideas each other had about how these problems can be inter-related. The forum also covered lots of mentorship from the more senior faculty, a “starting your laboratory 101” session for those who haven’t begun their own laboratory, and, of course, plenty of spotted cow beer and wacky ping pong tournaments.

The cancer field has generated a tidal wave of new information over the past decade, especially in all of the fields covered by the scholars. However, most of the time we become very near-sighted in our own fields and fail to see the bigger picture. It was very helpful to stimulate tons of conversation about each other’s topics, which generated lots of new ideas and collaborations.

There were many ideas generated for everybody’s projects and everyone who presented went home with a long list of experiments and concepts to contemplate. There were also collaborations formed within several disciplines, and maybe more importantly, across different disciplines. As the chair of the meeting, having attended the meeting 6 years in a row, I can absolutely attest to this annual meeting leading to more thought provoking dialogue than any other time during my academic year.

Forum Participants

Andrew James Aguirre, MD, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
 Forbeck Scholar

Esra Akbay, PhD
UT Southwestern
 Forbeck Scholar

Uri Ben-David, PhD
Broad Institute at MIT
 Forbeck Scholar

Kristopher Bosse, MD
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
 Forbeck Scholar

Donita Brady, PhD
University of Pennsylvania
 Forbeck Scholar

Vivian Y. Chang, MD
University of California Los Angeles
 Forbeck Scholar

Daniela Cimini, PhD
Virginia Tech
 Retreat Mentor

David G. DeNardo, PhD
Washington University School of Medicine
 Retreat Mentor

W. Clay Gustafson, MD
University of California San Francisco
 Forbeck Scholar

Lilian Kabeche, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital
 Forbeck Scholar

Junne Kamihara, MD, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
 Forbeck Scholar

Annette Kunkele, MD
Charite - University Hospital Berlin
 Forbeck Scholar

Mia Levine, PhD
University of Pennsylvania
 Forbeck Scholar

Shannon Maude, MD, PhD
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
 Forbeck Scholar

Chad Pecot, MD
University of North Carolina
 Retreat Mentor

Carla Daniela Robles-Espinoza, PhD
Intl. Lab for Human Genome Research, U. of Mexico
 Forbeck Scholar

Joshua B. Rubin, MD, PhD
Washington University
 Retreat Mentor

Stefano Santaguida, PhD
University of Milan
 Forbeck Scholar

Jason Sheltzer, PhD
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
 Forbeck Scholar

Mara Sherman, PhD
Oregon Health & Science University
 Forbeck Scholar

Stefani Spranger, PhD
Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT
 Forbeck Scholar

Neil Umbreit, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
 Forbeck Scholar