Scientists Discuss Major Trends in Modern Cancer Research


Since 2006, high school students and teachers from the New York City area have attended Memorial Sloan Kettering’s annual Major Trends in Modern Cancer Research seminar to learn about cutting-edge biomedical science and to engage with leading investigators. The program was designed to foster enthusiasm for science and medicine and to encourage young adults to pursue careers in those areas.

The most recent seminar, in late 2012, was the first to be presented not only at Memorial Sloan Kettering but as a live webcast, which was watched by more than 200 viewers from around the nation and the world.

Learn more about the presentations from the 2012 seminar, which are also available to watch on our website.

Signaling Cancer Cells

Memorial Sloan Kettering President and CEO Craig B. Thompson discusses how cancer cells grow and spread, and also explains the link between cell growth and metabolism.

While showing photos of an experiment tracking how mold grows and spreads on a piece of bread, Dr. Thompson says that the process could be used to illustrate how cancer grows and spreads in the body.

He notes that, as with mold spores, cancer cells need signals that tell them when to divide and multiply. In order to divide, cells must be “instructed by other cells based on need,” he says.

He also discusses the link between excess sugar in the diet and cancer, a focus of his laboratory research. He explains that sugar supplies nutrients that tell the cells to divide, “and then you’re off to the races of initiating the formation of a human cancer.”

Personalized Medicine

Neuropathologist and physician-scientist Jason T. Huse is focused on the area of personalized medicine — how it can improve the care of people with cancer and the role that pathology plays in finding the best treatment for each patient.

Dr. Huse, a specialist in pathology and brain tumors, notes that care is shifting away from the treatment of patients with “rough tools” such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Thanks to developments in technology, he says, doctors are able to personalize “treatment strategies with targeted agents that are directed specifically to the molecular abnormalities that are driving specific tumors.”

VIDEO | 34:00
Immunologist Morgan Huse discusses how the orientation of T cells — a type of white blood cell — affects the way they mount an immune response.
Video Details

Immune Response

Immunologist Morgan Huse, who is Jason’s identical twin brother, explains how a T cell — a type of white blood cell — fights infections and how it can be harnessed to destroy cancer as well.

“T cells kill target cells using a cocktail of really nasty, toxic proteins,” Morgan Huse says. The goal of scientists is to direct that response exactly where it is needed.

In studying T cells, researchers aim to harness the natural ability of T cells to use orientation and directionality — essentially, the sense of where they are — to aim their responses at the proper target.


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When it comes to the latest cancer research, I feel like there has been a lot of recent discoveries which show a lot of promise. However, I believe one of the most inriguing stories that I have come across is this one about Jack Andraka. This 15 year old has made an incredible discovery which should help revolutionize the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. There is a great video about his discovery available at:

Nice Introduction by Dr. Thompson regarding current trends in cancer research and twinbrothers. However, I thing I felt important for the fresher in cancer research that cancer initiating cells are slow growing, do not proliferate frequently and may escape from usual therapy as well as metabolic pathway targeting therapy.

On March 3, I heard Thom Hartmann talk about your report on sugar causing cancer but cannot find this report online. Where is it? It mentioned fructose as more dangerous than regular sugar because it goes straight to liver causing fatty liver, etc.

Marisa, thank you for your comment. We are unsure which specific study or report you are referring to—we would need more information in order to track it down.

Thom Hartmann, the liberal talk show host, quoted director of Sloan Kettering as saying "sugar is scary...I never add sugar to anything and try to avoid it." Thom talked about proof between fructose causing fatty liver leading to cancer. Regular sugar is processed by kidney along with most other sugars. This what I can remember from the program. I'm quite sure he said it was a Sloan Kettering report he was reading from. My quotes may not be exact word for word. Thom also mentioned autopsies done on dead soldiers after Korean war. Very young American soldiers had signs of cardiovascular disease compared to Korean soldiers who had none. Thom said there is now proof that sugar causes cancer.
thank you, Marisa

Marisa, our President and CEO, Craig Thompson, has done research in this area, but Memorial Sloan Kettering has not issued any official reports on the subject. If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Thompson’s research, you can view his laboratory pages at There you will also find a link to access the list of his published scientific studies. Thank you for your comment.