Cancer – understanding an elusive Disease

Douglas Hanahan, ISREC Director © Alain Herzog / EPFL

Douglas Hanahan, ISREC Director © Alain Herzog / EPFL

The Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research is dedicating its 2011 Symposium to the famous Hallmarks of Cancer. World-leading cancer specialists are to meet at EPFL from 7 to 10 September 2011.

Cancer is a disease as widespread as it is hard to define. What characteristics set apart a cancer cell from its healthy counterpart? What criteria should one use to circumscribe the disease? It is to summarize these issues that in 2000 Douglas Hanahan and Robert Weinberg published the famous Hallmarks of Cancer. Earlier this year, they updated this flagship publication, one of the most referenced to date in the history of oncology. Hanahan has now taken over as Director of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC). Logically, the ISREC 2011 Symposium logically revolves around these hallmarks, and speakers include top worldwide experts, including three medicine Nobel Prize winners.

There are 6 hallmarks, to which Hanahan and Weinberg have added two “emerging” candidates in their recent update. Hallmarks include enabling replicative immortality, evading growth suppressors, resisting cell death or activating metastasis. Each Symposium session is specifically dedicated to one of these aspects. This is the first international meeting to date to be fully devoted to the hallmarks and to take each of these into account.

Since they were published, the Hallmarks of Cancer have become a definite interpretation grid for oncology research. “They provide a functional classification as well as a conceptual tool”, Douglas Hanahan explains. “To become cancerous, cells must acquire these hallmark traits. However, they use many strategies to achieve this – various forms of mutations or alterations”.

Debiopharm, a partner in the event, will present its Life Science Award 2011 on Friday 9 September to three young European scientists. Rolland-Yves Mauvernay, Founder and President of Debiopharm Group, said: “The concept of hallmarks of cancer, first proposed by Doug Hanahan and Robert A. Weinberg, has made it possible to adopt a multifaceted approach to tackle cancer and has created new routes for combining treatments. I therefore consider that the theme of this year's symposium has been very well selected and will open the door to extremely fruitful discussions”.

For further information on the Symposium

In Cell, the Hallmarks of Cancer 2011 version