UTHSC Hosts Meeting of International Cancer Researchers

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Dr. Neil Hayes is hosting head and neck cancer researchers for a scientific conference at UTHSC this week. (Photo by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

Head and neck cancer researchers from the United States, Canada, England, Germany, and South America are meeting at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Tuesday, May 21, and Wednesday, May 22, to discuss ongoing collaborative genomics research in head and neck cancer and the future of epidemiological research on the disease.

Neil Hayes, MD, Van Vleet Endowed Professor in Medical Oncology and chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology in the College of Medicine at UTHSC, is hosting the meeting. Dr. Hayes is a principal in the development of The Cancer Genome Atlas, the flagship research effort of the National Institutes of Health that  developed a blueprint for mapping cancer DNA to identify mutations in cells for certain cancers, a key step toward developing precision therapies.

Dr. Hayes, who was recruited to UTHSC in 2017, is working on international cancer research grants with the roughly 25 to 30 investigators who will be in Memphis for the scientific meeting. He is performing the DNA sequencing on tumors from more than 3,000 head and neck cancer patients involved in the studies.

The meeting is significant for head and neck cancer research, as well as a plus for UTHSC and Memphis, Dr. Hayes said.

“The university has made investments in technology and in new hires, and this kind of meeting and this kind of group shows that those investments are bringing the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s cancer research program onto the world stage at the highest level,” Dr. Hayes said.

“We’re providing the sequencing because it is the most significant project in head and neck cancer that is ongoing in the world and includes some of the most important partners in head and neck cancer across several continents,” he said. “This is evidence that those investments are bearing fruit, both in terms of research dollars and also recognition and partnerships. This is what worldwide collaborative team science looks like in a disease that’s relevant to an area where we have excellent clinical expertise.”