The 18th Shaukat Khanum Cancer Symposium was held from the 1st to the 3rd of November, 2019 in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. This symposium was the largest oncology meeting in Pakistan, attracting more than 3000 delegates and over a hundred guest speakers. It was a gathering of experts, researchers and practitioners involved in delivering cancer care.

The symposium included record number of abstracts covering all aspects of cancer care, from basic science research to day-to-day oncology and precision medicine. From amongst these, 2 poster from the Precision Medicine Lab were selected to be presented.

The posters accepted for presentation were titled “MICROBIAL DYSBIOSIS IN ORAL SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA: A META ANALYSIS” by RA A. Salam and “NEXT GENERATION SEQUENCING (NGS) OF BRCA1 AND 2 GENES OF PAKISTANI WOMEN WITH FAMILIAL BREAST CANCER” by RA O.K Afridi.

Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC) accounts for an estimated 354,864 new cases resulting into 177,384 deaths annually and has less than a 50% of 5-year survival rate in most regions of the world. Several risks factor such as tobacco, alcohol consumption, periodontitis (poor oral hygiene), viral infection (Human Papilloma Virus; HPV), poor nutrition, solar radiations, and genetic predisposition links have been reported to cause OSCC development. However, the number of OSCC cases are growing in which the above-mentioned risk factors may or may not be associated but has been rather linked with microbial dysbiosis.

Previous studies show that in 1990s, the relationship between bacterial flora and gastric cancer led scientists across the globe to think about its role in cancer. After these pioneering studies, many other gut microbial species have been also found associating with different cancer development and progression. With the advent of high-throughput techniques revolutionizing the field of metagenomics, the studies on microbial dysbiosis associating with cancer have grown ever since. Recently, the interest in oral microbiome has been increased for investigation of microbial role as a carcinogenic agent.

Both posters were received with great interest by the audience present and our RAs were given back valuable feedback and words of encouragement.

The Symposium included workshops, talks and scientific sessions on various types of cancer. Interaction with researchers, scientists and doctors from all over the world was great exposure for the Precision Medicine Lab members.

The Cancer Symposium was also a platform to connect and network with eminent oral cancer specialists and oncologists from across the country. It was also an opportunity to connect with hospital admins and Peshawar based oncologists as potential partners for the future.

A number of key connections were made during the 3 day symposium including Dr Faisal Sultan (CEO & Consultant Physician Medicine and Infectious Diseases, SKMC), Dr. M. Usman Rashid (Senior Research Scientist, Basic Science dept. SKMC), Dr. Nosheen Zaidi (Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Cancer Biology Lab, University of Punjab), Rimsha Munir (Postdoc Associate, University of Punjab), Dr. Fawad Qamar (Medical Oncologist, SKMC Peshawar), Dr Irfan Haider (Medical Oncologist, SKMC Peshawar) and Dr. Arif Jamshed (SKMC Lahore)