Virtual conference for Alberta's cancer researchers aims to inspire collaboration

· The Pulse
By Nathan Fung
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For the first time in eight years, cancer researchers from throughout Alberta will gather at a conference to share their ideas, challenges, and achievements.

The Alberta Cancer Research Conference, kicking off Monday and running from Oct. 25 to 27, is a free virtual event to offer 600 registered attendees, including researchers from Edmonton and Calgary, a space to learn and network.

"We do have quite a few cutting-edge leading researchers in the province who have won national and international recognition for their research," co-organizer Christine Friedenreich told Taproot.

"[The conference is] a way of recognizing that this research is happening and highlighting it, and giving people a platform to share what they're doing."

Friedenreich, a cancer epidemiologist in Calgary, said the Alberta Cancer Foundation used to organize an annual in-person conference for researchers to share and discuss their work. The last one was in 2013.

Without some kind of provincial conference, Friedenreich said researchers were mostly confined to collaborating within their respective universities. Earlier this year, Friedenreich and Alberta Health Services started discussing the motion of a virtual conference to fill the void.

Pamela Round, left, and Christine Friedenreich, right

Pamela Round, left, and Christine Friedenreich are two organizers of next week's conference for Alberta cancer researchers. (Supplied)

"Essentially we just didn't have any opportunities for these kinds of professional development learning opportunities, to learn what's going on," she said.

Programming for the three-day event includes roundtable discussions, panels, keynote speakers, and poster presentations.

There is also a public event, From Lab to Bedside and Beyond: The Future of Cancer Research is Here, which will take place on Oct. 26. Speakers from the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary will discuss cancer research success stories, as well as opportunities and challenges facing cancer research in the province.

Sixteen awards will be presented to recognize cancer research excellence in Alberta, including honours for early-career investigators, senior investigators, lifetime contributors, and other categories.

While there will be some international speakers, Friedenreich said the conference's main focus is to showcase the work that's being done in Alberta.

She hopes the conference will be a "catalyzing event."

"My hope is that it will help bring the entire province to work together more, to collaborate more on research, and to have the research that we do become more recognized, be more impactful, and more competitive at a national level," she said.