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AACR18: Driving Innovative Cancer Science to Patient Care

April 12, 2018

This Saturday, April 14, roughly 20,000 people—including many of the top cancer researchers and clinicians from all over the world—will convene in Chicago to discuss the latest basic, translational, clinical, and prevention-focused advances against cancer at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018 (AACR18).

This year’s theme is “Driving Innovative Cancer Science to Patient Care,” and perhaps more than ever before, this annual AACR meeting will focus on the clinical advances we’ve made against cancer, as well as the biological and immunological mechanisms that are responsible for these successes. “We’re having more and more clinicians come to our meeting, and they’re coming to the meeting to understand the science,” noted AACR president Michael A. Caligiuri, M.D., in a meeting preview video. “If you’re out there in the field treating patients you really need to understand mechanisms.”

Many of the scientists responsible for these advances are funded by or otherwise affiliated with the Cancer Research Institute (CRI). Overall, the work of more than 80 CRI scientists will be highlighted throughout the five-day event, which takes place in Chicago from April 14-18, in the form of over 60 oral presentations (six of which are plenary talks), nearly 100 poster presentations, a prestigious award speech, and even a memorial lectureship.

Their presentations will cover an extremely wide scope of topics, and in addition to their anticipated clinical breakthroughs, a number of their advances in the lab will also be unveiled, providing potential glimpses of next generation immunotherapy approaches that could help enhance the ability of patients’ immune systems to conquer their cancers—and help save even more lives—in the future.

Many of the most promising efforts led by CRI scientists have implications for several types of cancers, and will focus on topics such as:

  • Immunotherapy as a first-line option for patients, particularly in lung cancer, which claims more lives than any other type of cancer; the benefits of immunotherapy prior to surgery will also be revealed
  • Checkpoint Immunotherapies, both alone and in combination, including in the neo-adjuvant setting, and new checkpoint targets beyond PD-1 and CTLA-4; one particularly promising group of combination partners is the CD40 agonists, which can help kick start adaptive immune responses against tumors, even against hard-to-treat types like pancreatic cancer
  • CAR T Cell immunotherapies, including those against new targets such as ROR1; allogeneic, off-the-shelf versions; off-switches and other novel strategies to prevent damaging side effects; and the scientific and regulatory challenges associated with developing CAR T cells for solid tumors; other adoptive cellular immunotherapies—such as those targeting the NY-ESO-1 cancer antigens—will also be featured
  • Oncolytic Virus Immunotherapies, including one version that’s been engineered to produce its own supply of anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors
  • Personalized Vaccine Immunotherapies that teach patients’ immune systems how to target their unique tumor neoantigens, as well as strategies to discover the most effective targets
  • Immunotherapies taking advantage of the innate immune system, especially those targeting the TLR and STING pathways, to complement existing immunotherapies that bolster the immune system’s adaptive arm
  • The Tumor Microenvironment, including metabolic factors; immunosuppressive cell populations such as regulatory T cells; and other signaling networks that can affect the immune system’s ability to mount effective responses against tumors
  • Our Microbiome, or the bacteria that reside within us, including the role that our native intestinal bacteria play in the development of cancer and immunotherapy-induced responses against them, as well as a bacteria-based, HPV-targeting immunotherapy
  • Immunotherapy resistance, the factors responsible for it, and strategies to overcome it
  • New Tools to Improve Immunotherapy Approaches, including one that enables analysis of anti-tumor immune responses at an unprecedented level of detail, and another that allows examination of chemical-biological interactions regarding the targets of immunotherapy drugs
  • Biomarkers, which can be used to predict prognosis as well as which treatments are most likely to benefit which patients; overall, they’re helping to improve doctors’ treatment-related decision making abilities and improving care for patients

The annual AACR meeting is exciting every year, but this year—on the heels of immunotherapy being named the Advance of the Year for the third year running by the American Society of Clinical Oncology—feels even more special. We can’t wait to cover the action on the ground in Chicago and keep you updated on the most exciting news coming out of the conference. Be sure to follow our blog for the latest from AACR18!

*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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