By Nicole Park and Nandini Raghuram

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHello everyone! There has been a lot of activity over here at RIOT recently. We thought we would share with you some updates on an incredible event that we just held this past April!

An important aspect of what we do at RIOT is to increase awareness on the progress in cancer research, and that includes reaching out to the younger generation! So, over the past two years, we have been travelling around the GTA, teaching high school classes on cancer biology and what cancer research is like as a potential career option. It’s been an awesome journey for us to meet such bright and motivated students as well as the outstanding teachers that show such an amazing level of commitment and dedication to their students.

These rewarding experiences led us to create a one-day symposium in collaboration with Let’s Talk Science for high school students known as Let’s Talk Cancer. With the support of community donors like SimpliHome, we have been successful in hosting Let’s Talk Cancer events for other RIOT teams across Ontario for the past two years now. Together, we wanted to create a positive and greater learning experience for the exceptionally curious students.

Our event was held in the iconic “Great Hall” at The University of Toronto campus. The space really captured the essence of a historic academic institution with a whimsical nod at Hogwarts! We started the day with an awe-inspiring speech by a young cancer survivor, who shared her personal experiences battling breast cancer. It was humbling to listen to her words, she brought immense perspective to the students and really highlighted the importance of cancer research to all of us.

The day was then filled with lectures from scientific leaders and experts in the various fields of cancer research. We invited scientists to speak on their own research that ranged from ‘Clonality’ and ‘Tumor Microenvironment’ to ‘Personal Oncogenomics’ and ‘Drug Development’. Each lecture was followed by a lively Q&A and then a hands-on activity to engage the students to apply what they learned. A winning team of students, from one of our activities, even had the unique opportunity to tour a stem cell lab! We ended the day with an energetic talk given by a cancer community advocate, who empowered the students with tools to get active and involved in their own community.

Today, cancer touches the lives of people of all ages directly or indirectly. This includes our younger generation – and they want to do something about it, whether it be in advocacy or pursue a career in research and/or medicine. Researchers are still learning more about the complexity of cancer day by day and it is going to take our next generation to make new and lasting discoveries. We hope events like Let’s Talk Cancer inspires the next generation of scientific leaders in our community.

Check out more pictures from the event below!

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