Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO
CCBIO Research School

Excitement and international participation at the first fully web-based version of CCBIO905

CCBIO’s PhD course CCBIO905 Methods in Cancer Biomarker Research was for the first time run on a digital platform October 27-29, 2020. The course was well attended, 80 participants followed selected lectures for non-ECTS participation, and 34 students completed the course with ECTS credits. The participants signed in from 15 different universities and 8 different countries with the majority of students from Norway and Finland.

Illustrations of the CCBIO905 topics addressed.
CCBIO/Ingvild Festervoll Melien

Main content

This was the third time CCBIO905 was provided to our students and PhD candidates, and the first time the course was run as a fully digital event on the Zoom platform, allowing for an extended audience. Participants joined the classes from the comfort of their own homes or universities. Although this course is mainly intended for PhD candidates and other students at The CCBIO Research School for Cancer Studies (RSCS), the course was also announced through the Nordic Doctoral Training in Health Sciences network (NorDoc), and admission was open for international students who found the topics interesting. The participants signed in from 15 different universities and 8 different countries, with the majority from Norway and Finland.

Well blended course with excellent speakers

The feedback from the students confirmed that online lectures suited half of the class perfectly, while the other half would have preferred on-site lectures or a combination of online and on-site lectures. Although some students found that completion of the group work was more challenging online than on-site, most of the participants were enthusiastic and enjoyed the networking opportunities and the discussions with their peers in the digital group assignments. Those who attended the complete course were eligible for the 5 ECTS or a course diploma. Participation in lectures or group work was not mandatory for the non-ECTS participants, and thus they could hop in and out of class as they pleased. Feedback from the non-ECTS group revealed that the participants appreciated the wide variety of methods presented and the quality of the lectures they attended. As expressed by one of the participants: "Thank you for a well blended course with excellent speakers!".

The huge interest in this course, from students and researchers both the Medical Faculty, Haukeland University Hospital and other university departments, reflects a need for courses addressing basic information and broad introduction to the variety of biomedical methods applied in the beginning of their career in biomarker research.

Increased focus on advanced in vitro models and high-dimensional single cell analyses

CCBIO905 is a course with a focus on the full panel of advanced and standard methods with relevance for cancer biomarkers. The thematic parts include methods ranging from basic techniques on nucleotides and proteins to more advanced approaches, as well as bioinformatics and bio-banking. The full scientific program can be found here.

The participants learnt how various biological specimens (tissue samples, blood samples, urine samples, and other biologic materials), may be studied by a variety of methods and how to analyze the results by bioinformatics. New this year was an increased focus on advanced in vitro models, including organoid cultures, and a thorough theoretical introduction to high-dimensional single cell analyses using mass cytometry and imaging mass cytometry (IMC). The Hyperion Imaging System has been available to the UiB medical faculty research groups since 2019, and several student presentations also covered this exciting novel technology.

Screenshot from Zoom, with the speaker.
Screenshot from Zoom/CCBIO

Companion diagnostics, biomarkers, and the industry perspective

Dr. Mike Flores, M.D. MBA, Staff Pathologist at Roche Diagnostics gave an interesting talk (chaired by Prof. James Lorens) about companion diagnostics, explaining the clinical needs and current research in the field. He also gave the students a thorough introduction into the validation of such products before they are being tested on patients.

Screenshot from Zoom, with the speaker.
Screenshot from Zoom/CCBIO

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the success

Professor Lars A. Akslen and Agnete Engelsen hold the academic responsibility for this course. They want to thank course coordinator Ingeborg Winge, who also skillfully chaired the sessions together with Vandana Ardawatia. Together with Senior Executive Officer Kjetil Harkestad at the Department of Clinical Medicine, they provided excellent administration and support for the first fully digital CCBIO905.

The organizers also want to thank the other lecturers, Elisabet Ognedal, Dipak Sapkota, Erling Høivik, Reidunn Jetne Edelmann, Kenneth Finne, Even Birkeland, Jørn Skavland, Oddmund Nordgård, David Dolan, Sonia Gavasso, Dimitrios Kleftogiannis, Carina Strell, Heidrun Vethe, Ann Cathrine Krogsveen, Olav Vintermyr, Karen Toska and Eivind Valen, who contributed with their expert knowledge and conveyed their excitement for the various technologies in an excellent manner during the course of these three days.

A particular thanks to the students for excellent group presentations, and to the expert panel consisting of Professor James Lorens and CCBIO Researchers Liv Cecilie Vestrheim Thomsen and Cornelia Schuster, for insightful evaluation of the student presentations.