The first JHMRF Scientific Workshop took place on Friday 31 March 2017 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Leeds. The event was chaired by Richard Stephens (formerly of the Medical Research Council) and Kate Hill (JHMRF Trustee). The workshop followed on from two similar events organised by the British Lung Foundation (iMig Conference, Birmingham, 1 – 3 May 2016) and Cancer Research UK (London, 24 February 2017).
The primary aim of the JHMRF workshop was to identify the gaps in mesothelioma research that remain unfilled by the recent funding allocations to Imperial College (National Centre for Mesothelioma Research) and the British Lung Foundation (restricted grant from the Victor Dahdelah Foundation). The secondary aims were:
- to build research capacity by providing a forum for debate and sharing of research ideas between institutions;
- to promote the development of a mesothelioma research network and,
- to identify a collaborative project with potential to develop into a research proposal.
Fifteen researchers from nine universities attended the meeting. Also in attendance were Kimberley Stubbs (JMHRF Chair), a JHMRF supporter and three local patient representatives.
Professor Bill Cookson, Centre Director of the National Centre for Mesothelioma Research and Ian Jarrold from the British Lung Foundation opened the meeting with an overview and update on the research plans of their respective organisations. The introductory speakers were followed by seven ‘elevator pitches’: 5-minute snapshot presentations designed to convey key messages in a concise format using a maximum of four slides.
The quality of the work presented was excellent and a willingness to share ideas was evident from the new and unpublished data that was shown. The presenters engaged with the ‘elevator pitch’ format enthusiastically and all were good time-keepers! During the afternoon session, all delegates contributed openly to the discussion and their interests reflected the wide ranging approaches to mesothelioma research including small molecules with potential anti-cancer activity; the stages and process of mesothelioma development; predictive biomarkers and the potential to develop new therapies.
Given the diversity of the work presented, no single, specific collaborative project emerged from the debate, although early diagnosis was acknowledged as an important goal. Nevertheless, the openness of the discussion that characterised the afternoon session was rewarding and a successful meeting ensued with new links and contacts being established between the researchers present.
The Board of Trustees of the JHMRF thank all the attendees for contributing to the success of the meeting. To maintain the momentum in this area, the JHMRF are now offering a pump-priming grant of £25,000.