Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO
CCBIO/Harvard INTPART collaboration

Broad attendance in digital CCBIO-VBP/Harvard course

In collaboration with the Vascular Biology Program (VBP), Boston Children’s Hospital, CCBIO recently completed the second CCBIO INTPART long course CCBIO907. This year, the course was given in digital format, and it was well visited by local students and researchers, participants from other institutions all over Norway, and also from Finland, Sweden and Denmark, in addition to some from other continents, all in all 96 participants.

Screenshot from Zoom, with the 9 speakers.
Screenshots from Zoom

This course is made possible by joint efforts from both sides of the CCBIO/Vascular Biology Program-Harvard collaboration, and provides a unique opportunity for master and PhD students, postdocs, and researchers, to learn vascular and metastasis biology from leading faculty in these fields. VBP faculty this year included Bruce Zetter, Michael S. Rogers, Joyce Bischoff, Edward Smith, Hong Chen, Diane R. Bielenberg, and Randy S. Watnick, in addition to CCBIO’s local experts Reidunn Edelmann and Oddbjørn Straume.

Original broad format with extensions

Leader of the CCBIO Research School and one of the academic responsible for CCBIO907, Elisabeth Wik, says: “Also this year, it was a true pleasure to interact with our colleagues from the Vascular Biology Program. We kept the original format of the course, with a mix of lectures on basic vascular biology and new research in the field, and lectures and workshops on skills like ‘Peer review’, ‘Crafting your pitch’ and ‘Crafting your presentation’. New faculty from the Vascular Biology Program was invited to contribute to this year’s program, and expanding the program was very successful,” Elisabeth explains. “The students got opportunities to learn from new vascular biology fields, and evaluation feedback indicates great learning outcome from all lecturers,” she says.

The faculty brought the students through a broad range of topics. Dr. Rogers set out the course weeks by introducing the students to angiogenesis and challenging them with the case-based collaborative learning format. Drs Bielenberg and Chen added vascular physiology and molecular signaling to the introduction to the vascular biology field – all parts very much appreciated by the students.  Dr. Bischoff introduced and discussed the topic endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and elucidated vascular biology in vascular tumors and vascular malformations – areas of her expertise. Dr. Chen presented complex knowledge in an understandable manner in her lecture on lymphatic vessel remodeling. Dr. Smith gave an interesting and mind-opening lecture series where he presented suggestions to bridging the gap between science and medicine by medicine-focused research; examples of research on non-invasive biomarkers and how to bring them from bench to bedside, before he presented axon guidance factors and tumor invasion. He bridged his research examples with cases from his clinical practice as a neurosurgeon. 

Dr. Edelmann inspired the students with her lectures on endothelial cell biology and inflammation, linking also the endothelial cell biology and covid19 - a very current topic these days. Dr. Straume presented how antiangiogenic treatment is used in clinical practice and research. He used strong clinical examples, and covered the antiangiogenic drugs available in clinical practice today, pointing to relevant targets for antiangiogenic treatment strategies.

Over the last week, Drs Rogers and Watnick completed the course by lectures on cancer initiation, progression and metastasis, tumor perfusion, and the tumor microenvironment. Conveying important ‘soft skills’ to the students, Dr. Zetter provided the students a wonderful collection of advice on crafting a presentation, Dr. Bielenberg presented in enthusiastic manners tips on crafting your research pitch, and Dr. Bischoff gave valuable input on doing a proper peer review.  

Interactive assignments

The second last course day, participating students gave presentations on an assignment, several of them teamed up in pairs, taking advantage of networking with students across institutions and countries. A well of strong presentations on complex vascular biology were presented. As part of the assignment, the students were instructed to give constructive feedback on each other’s presentation – both the scientific content and how it was presented – a useful rehearsal for everyone. The course organizers were impressed with the thoroughness in many of the feedback notes. Four presentations were selected to give a plenary presentation with Bruce Zetter, Michael Rogers, Randy Watnick and Elisabeth Wik as evaluation committee. Students from the University of Uppsala, the University of Helsinki, and the University of Bergen presented assignments spanning a wide spectrum of vascular-related biology. The students received comments on their presentations, and the scientific content was discussed.

CCBIO Seminars

This year, the VBP faculty gave four open research webinars that spanned over topics like “Endothelial anomalies in vascular tumors and vascular malformations” (Joyce Bischoff), “Endocytic adaptor protein Epsin is a gatekeeper of the quiescent endothelium” (Hong Chen), “Learning from tumor to treat stroke” (Edward Smith), and “Metastasis without a tumor” (Michael S. Rogers). This format opened these selected lectures up to a broader audience, in the CCBIO Seminar series.

Excellent facilitation  

CCBIO Director Lars A. Akslen and Dr. Wik would particularly like to thank Professor Marsha Moses, Director of the Vascular Biology Program, for supporting the CCBIO-VBP INTPART program, and for facilitating her PI’s contributions and participation in the course. Also, great thanks to Assistant Professor Michael S. Rogers, who coordinated the course planning at the US side. His structured planning, and his lecture contributions were highly appreciated.

CCBIO would also like to pass warm thanks to the other colleagues from the Vascular Biology Program who made this year’s course a success. Students and faculty alike report that the course has been very motivating, inspiring and provided great learning outcome. Also this year, the Harvard scholars’ used methods for teaching that inspired UiB junior faculty to adjust their own teaching activities. Also, great thanks to CCBIO Postdoc Heidrun Vethe for excellent work on course administration.

"The unique relationship and collaboration between CCBIO and the Vascular Biology Program has been developing through many years and has been mutually fruitful. CCBIO907 reflects this relationship in the best way. Both personally and professionally I am very grateful to Prof. Marsha A. Moses, the director of VBP, for her continued support”, says Lars A. Akslen, Director of CCBIO. “It has been an honor to follow in the footsteps of and be inspired by the late Dr. Judah Folkman, founder of VBP and a unique mentor to many of us”.

Successful international collaboration

Overall, the CCBIO organizers are very happy with CCBIO907. The strong contributions from the Vascular Biology Program makes this an excellent effort in research education at the University of Bergen. This year’s large attendance, both from the UiB and other Nordic universities and beyond, indicates a great interest and relevance of this course, also as a future UiB PhD course. Although missing the informal chat in the coffee breaks, both students and faculty are happy with the digital format, which also makes it possible to interact with a much larger group of colleagues. Discussions will continue regarding the format for the next CCBIO907 (2022) – aiming for continued mentoring and knowledge sharing.