Essen, one of the biggest city in the Ruhrgebiet, was the protagonist of the annual GenoMEL meeting this year. The Ruhrgebiet is an urban region in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, that is formed of more than 50 cities and over 5 million people.
The University Hospital of Essen has become one of the best institutes in Germany (https://www.praktischarzt.de/blog/beste-unikliniken-deutschland-ranking/) and the head of the Department of Dermatology, Prof. Dr. med. Dirk Schadendorf is also the most cited scientist in the country (https://www.informer-online.de/2017/11/essener-dermatologe-auf-platz-1-in-deutschland/). He is intensively involved in new clinical trials every year, was able to establish strong collaborations all around the world and is the head of an extensive biobank for melanoma patients.
Events like the GenoMEL meeting are of importance nowadays, in order to keep exchanging knowledge and data between the different groups, and to strengthen old collaborations or even make new ones. Data sharing was actually one on the main topic that was discussed during the meeting, as Dr. Alisa Goldstein described the notable advantages of the Bionimbus (https://bionimbus.opensciencedatacloud.org) on behalf of GenoMEL. This Data Cloud allows users authorized by NIH to compute over human genomic data in a secure compliant fashion.
The GenoMEL consortium was founded to enable collaborative research between melanoma researchers, and this year wasn’t different. In fact, a guest speaker was welcomed this year, Jean-Christophe Marine, from KU Leuven (http://www.vib.be/en/research/scientists/Pages/Jean-Christophe-Marine-Lab.aspx). He has strong interest in analyzing pathways governing the genesis, progression and maintenance of cancer, particularly melanoma. He delivered a brilliant overview of his work, which focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which non-mutational (i.e. epigenetic and post-transcriptional) events bring about tumor development and resistance, and the role of p53 in the melanoma model, which is not very well understood and described yet. Surely, his extensive talk assured him a great number of questions, from both senior researchers and PhD students, resulting in possible new collaborations with different GenoMEL members.
Even though originally the GenoMEL was specifically addressing the problem of familiar melanoma, the work being carried out has broadened. The new members now are looking for the identification of lower penetrance susceptibility genes, mechanisms responsible for resistance to therapies and the development of new tools to assess tumor progression and monitor clinical response to treatment as liquid biopsies. These new aspects were discussed in GenoMEL meeting thanks to the opportunity given to all the PhD students from the MELGEN program to present their work in front of everyone and discuss their latest results and possible collaborations.
Overall, the meeting was very interactive, provided lots of room for scientific discussion and exchanging ideas, which may facilitate future collaborations and help melanoma research to progress even further.
Written by Sonia Leonardelli. Thank you for Renata Varaljai for proofreading and comments.