Center News Magazine: Starr Cancer Consortium Retreat Promotes Collaboration Among Grant Awardees

Monday, December 1, 2008
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The retreat provided a an opportunity for researchers share ideas

Forty Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers gathered with scientists from four other institutions at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island in September to present and discuss projects funded by the Starr Cancer Consortium. The two-day retreat, which is expected to become an annual event, allowed the participants to learn about research being conducted by their fellow Starr Cancer Consortium awardees and discuss their findings.

A total of approximately 125 people attended, including senior scientists, junior scientists, and trainees working on the projects. Among the attendees were Memorial Sloan Kettering President Harold Varmus, Sloan Kettering Institute Director Thomas J. Kelly, and Starr Foundation President Florence A. Davis.

This retreat provided a terrific opportunity for researchers in the consortium to share ideas and hear about the work others are doing,” Dr. Varmus said. “It was especially valuable for younger scientists as it gave them a chance to consult with established researchers in various areas of expertise. It’s our hope that the exchange of ideas will give rise to further multi-institutional collaborations.

The Starr Cancer Consortium, funded by a $100 million gift from the Starr Foundation, is a collaboration among Memorial Sloan Kettering, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, The Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medical College. Launched in 2006, the consortium provides a framework for joint projects that harness the complementary strengths of the five institutions to improve the understanding, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer. All of the research projects supported by the consortium are collaborative, involving scientists from two or more of the participating institutions.

The consortium places particular emphasis on the development and exploitation of new technologies to gain deeper understanding of the molecular basis of cancer. The latest findings from each research project were presented in three plenary sessions and a poster session. The retreat’s format encouraged questions and free-ranging conversation following presentations, further facilitating face-to-face interactions between established scientists and young researchers.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was pleased to host the first Starr Cancer Consortium retreat,” said Bruce Stillman, the institution’s president. “As we use the knowledge about the causes of cancer garnered from 30 years of research, we are now in a position to perform meaningful investigations to advance diagnosis, early detection, and therapy. The novel consortium supported by the Starr Foundation will go a long way to achieving these goals.

To learn more about the Starr Cancer Consortium, visit its Web site at www.starrcancer.org.