This year, Dublin Castle, built in 1204, was an ideal central Dublin venue for forging new interactions within a beautiful and historic setting. This was helped by wall to wall sunshine and daily temperatures of 22-24°C; a rare event in the Emerald Isle! Approx. 305 scientists representing 26 countries, from all over Europe but also North and South America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Oceania and of course the UK and Ireland, attended this conference. Four keynote lectures, three prestigious award lectures, 32 invited speakers, 49 proffered papers, 41 oral posters and 188 posters were delivered in 15 scientific sessions covering all of the major disciplines of radiation science, including physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, and radiation protection, with a ‘Clinical Day’ focussed on cancer treatment and prevention. It attracted professionals, such as medical physicists, radiation and clinical oncologists, radiographers and radiobiologists/cancer biologists working in the cancer field with an interest in radiation science. Of significance, 30% of the participants were graduate students/early career investigators making their first steps in the radiation science field, emphasising the continued importance of this area of research and a chosen pathway for many budding young scientists. This was facilitated through 27 Young Investigator travel awards provided by the European (ERRS), UK (ARR), Irish (IRRS), US (RRS), Italian (SIRR) and Polish (PRRS) Societies for Radiation Research and the LH Gray Trust. All of the Young Investigators gave excellent talks in the various proffered paper and oral poster sessions. In addition, 15 poster prizes were awarded by ERRS, ARR and IRRS. These enthusiastic early career investigators will surely secure a strong future for our discipline.
The meeting was endorsed by the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) and generously sponsored by RPS services, Zeiss, Metasystems, Precision X Ray, Journal of Radiation Research, European Association for Cancer Research (EACR), NCRI/CT-Rad, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, the LH Gray Memorial Trust, Science Foundation Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Ruskinn, Xstrahl, Bio-Sciences, Oxford Optronix, Don Whitley Scientific and LabLogic.
The first day started with a plenary lecture on Radiation Chemistry by the internationally renowned Dr Jean-Luc Ravanat, CEA-Grenoble, who gave an excellent lecture on the chemical aspects of radiation-induced DNA lesions and development of analytical tools to measure these lesions in cells. More specifically, he focussed on the formation and repair of complex DNA lesions generated through a single oxidation event under biologically relevant conditions.
Radiation Chemistry Plenary Lecture - Dr Jean Luc Ravanat
This was then followed with an excellent set of parallel sessions on ‘DNA Damage and Repair’ and ‘Non-ionising radiation’ with two superb invited lectures in each by Dr Don Jones, University of Leicester, Dr Rhona Anderson, Brunel University, Prof Mark Birch-Machin, Newcastle University, and Prof Yoram Palti, NovaCure ltd , Israel. Monday afternoon saw the first of our prize lectures by Prof Penny Jeggo, University of Sussex, who gave the Silvanus Thompson Memorial Lecture (BIR). This was a real inspiration to promising female scientists, providing encouragement to young mothers about what they can achieve when they put their minds to it. With a plethora of high impact publications in Nature, Cell, EMBO and PNAS, Penny took the audience through her journey on understanding the damage response processes following exposure to ionising radiation. In particular, the process of DNA non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) and how it interfaces with the signal transduction processes during development.
Silvanus Thompson Award Lecture - Prof Penny Jeggo
Other highlights of the day included a session on ‘Radiosensitivity and normal tissue damage’ where Prof Keith Caldecott, University of Sussex, and Prof Malcolm Taylor, University of Birmingham continued on the theme of DNA repair. Two excellent talks by Dr Lorenzo Manti, University of Naples and Dr Oliver Jakel, German Cancer Research Centre Heidelberg took place in the parallel session on ‘Particle radiation and space radiation’.
The day was completed by a busy poster session on the themes of that day, followed by an ‘optional!’ 5 km run in Dublin’s Phoenix Park; others chose to go to one of many lively Dublin pubs. Regardless, we all went to bed exhausted.
5km run in the Phoenix Park
Tues 3rd of Sept started with a superb lecture by the eminent award winning Prof Martin Brown, Stanford University who enlightened delegates with a novel approach to targeting tumours by preventing vasculogenesis initiated by CD11b+ myelomonocytic cells. He was able to demonstrate that blocking these cells can be highly effective at preventing tumour regrowth following radiotherapy, representing a new paradigm for the treatment of cancer.
Radiation Biology Plenary Lecture - Prof Martin Brown
This was followed by parallel sessions on ‘Stem Cells’ and ‘Non-Cancer Effects’ with excellent invited talks by Dr Gillian Farnie, University of Manchester, Dr Eric O’Neill, University of Oxford, Prof Guido Hildebrandt, University of Rostock and Dr Liz Ainsbury, Public Health England.
The afternoon saw another female medal winner, Prof Stephanie McKeown, University of Ulster present a wonderful ARR Weiss Medal lecture on her contribution to the understanding of hypoxia on tumour progression and how targeting these cells is paving the way for novel approaches to the treatment of cancer.
ARR Weiss Medal Lecture - Prof Stephanie McKeown
Two further parallel sessions on Systems Biology / Biomarkers (Prof Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff, New York University, Prof Walter Kolch, Systems Biology Ireland) and Tumour Signalling and the Microenvironment (Prof Brad Wouters, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Dr Ester Hammond, University of Oxford) took place in the afternoon, followed by a poster session on the themes of the day.
Those with any energy left headed off again to sample the Dublin restaurants and pubs or to the Irish Night at the Merry Ploughboys for some Irish traditional music and dancing.
Wed 4th provided a testament to the rapid movement of radiation biology research forward clinically within two clinical sessions. The morning started with a remembrance by Mary Coffey, TCD, of the late Prof Donal Hollywood who will be sadly missed by the radiotherapy community in Ireland and indeed worldwide.
This was followed by a stimulating and inspirational lecture on Radiation Medicine by Prof Rob Bristow, University of Toronto, who demonstrated how genomics and transcriptomics could be used as powerful tools to personalise radiotherapy to patients most likely to respond.
Radiation Medicine Plenary Lecture - Prof Rob Bristow
Other excellent speakers during the Clinical Day were Prof Tony Lomax, Paul Scherrer Institute, Dr Laurent Levy, Nanobiotix; Prof Anthony Chalmers, University of Glasgow, Prof Anne Hansen Ree and Prof Phillippe Lambin, Maastricht University.
Sessions on ‘Radiation Protection of the Environment/Radioecology’ (Dr Luis Leon Vintro, University College Dublin and Dr Brenda Howard (Lancaster Environment Centre) and ‘Radiation Physics/Chemistry and Radiation Modifiers’ (Prof Peter O’Neill, University of Oxford and Dr Stephen McMahon, Queen’s University Belfast) took place in parallel to the clinical sessions.
Another wonderful award lecture, the ERRS Bacq and Alexander Award lecture, was delivered by Prof Marco Durante, GSI.
ERRS Bacq and Alexander Award Lecture - Prof Marco Durante
The day was finished off by a poster session on the themes of the day followed by the Gala Dinner and a wonderful evening of Irish music and dancing at the Mansion House Dublin. Everyone joined in; there were some sore legs the following day.
ERR2013 Gala Dinner at the Mansion House
The final day saw an excellent plenary lecture on radiation protection by Prof David Brenner, Columbia University, and parallel sessions on ‘Low doses / non-targeted effects’ (Prof Carmel Mothersill, McMaster University and Prof Yuri Dubrova, University of Leicester) and ‘Nuclear power / radiation accidents’ (Prof Elisabeth Cardis, CREAL and Dr Ciara McMahon, RPII).
Radiation Protection Plenary Lecture - Prof David Brenner
A final session on ‘Emerging Technology’ (Dr Matt Hurles, Sanger Institute, Prof Stephen Pennington, University College Dublin, Prof Frank Buchholz, TU Dresden) finished off the last day of the meeting.
Overall, ERR2013 was a great success with four days of cutting edge high quality science with great interaction and discussion at all levels. We would like to say a big thank you to all our programme committee for an excellent scientific programme and to all our delegates for making this meeting one to remember!