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CICON19 Preview: Translating Science into Survival

September 16, 2019

Immune-based treatments—known collectively as immunotherapy—have already provided remarkable benefits against cancer, including relief for people with advanced cancers that do not respond to other treatments. These immunotherapies, especially checkpoint inhibitors, have also proven beneficial as first-line therapies for these advanced cancers, and multiple studies appear to demonstrate their value earlier in the course of treatment.

While the immune system’s power to combat even the most intractable cancers is now undisputed, we have yet to realize its full potential, and as a result, most patients still don’t have long-lasting responses to current immunotherapies. To change that, we will need a deeper understanding of the relationship between cancer and the immune system, and we will need to leverage that knowledge to develop improved immunotherapy strategies.

To address that challenge, renowned experts from around the world will convene at the Espace Grande Arche in Paris, France, September 25-28 for the 2019 International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference (CICON19). Co-organized by the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT) and European Academy of Tumor Immunology (EATI) along with their U.S. partners, the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), CICON19 boasts a diverse roster of basic researchers, oncology doctors, and clinical drug developers who will highlight the latest breakthroughs in the field and discuss how these insights can be translated into improved treatments for patients.

Overall, the four-day conference will include twelve sessions, which will focus on topics such as immune-based preventive strategies, combination immunotherapy approaches, T cell exhaustion, the tumor microenvironment, cellular immunotherapies, cancer vaccines, oncolytic viruses, metabolism, the microbiome, and new tools and technologies to advance the field.

In addition to fifty CRI postdoctoral fellows who will be presenting posters, a number of CRI scientists will be giving talks during the conference. The following are some of the talks we are most looking forward to:

DAY 1: Cancer Prevention and Lifestyle Factors in Oncoimmunology; Combination Therapies with Immune Checkpoint Blockers

  • Olivera J. Finn, Ph.D., the recipient of the 2017 Lloyd J. Old Award who works at the University of Pittsburgh, will discuss immunosurveillance and the antigens that our immune system uses to target cancer cells naturally, as these could provide good targets for preventive cancer vaccines.
  • Pavel Hanc, Ph.D., a CRI postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Ulrich H. von Andrian, M.D., Ph.D., at Harvard Medical School, will be exploring how the nervous system can impact immune activity through the control of dendritic cells.
  • Cornelis J.M. Melief, M.D., Ph.D., a CRI Scientific Advisory Council member who received the 2018 CRI-AACR Lloyd J. Old Award, will be talking about incorporating vaccines into combination immunotherapy strategies against human papilloma virus (HPV) associated cancers. Dr. Melief is affiliated with Leiden University Medical Center and ISA Pharmaceuticals BV.

DAY 2: T Cell Exhaustion – mechanisms: Resistance Mechanisms; Immunotherapies, Non-Cell-Based; Immunotherapies, Cell Based; New Targets and Concepts

  • Elizabeth M. Jaffee, M.D., a member of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will be giving the 2019 CRI William B. Coley Award lecture.
  • Ellen Puré, Ph.D., an associate director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council from the University of Pennsylvania, will be talking about targeting fibrosis and the tumor microenvironment.
  • Susan Kaech, Ph.D., a CRI CLIP Investigator at the Salk Institute for Biological studies, will be exploring the role that metabolism plays in enabling the cancer-killing activity of T cells.

DAY 3: Tumor Antigens; Vaccination Strategies; New Trends in Technology & Informatics; TME analysis

  • Robert D. Schreiber, Ph.D., an associate director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, will be focusing on the molecule cell biology behind immune control and escape of tumors.
  • E. John Wherry, Ph.D., a CRI grantee and former CRI Frederick W. Alt Award recipient who works at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, will be discussing mechanisms of T cell exhaustion and how this challenge might be addressed to improve patient outcomes with immunotherapy.
  • Nir Hacohen, Ph.D., a CRI grantee at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard, will be sharing insights regarding “the rules of human cancer immunity.”

DAY 4: IO Crosstalk and Metabolism; Microbiota in Oncoimmunology

  • Chang-Suk Chae, Ph.D., a CRI postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of CRI CLIP Investigator Juan R. Cubillos-Ruiz, Ph.D., at Weill Cornell Medicine will be highlighting how stress in the endoplasmic reticulum can negatively impact dendritic cells in the context of ovarian cancer.
  • Giorgio Trinchieri, M.D., a member of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council from the National Cancer Institute, will focus on the role of the microbiome in cancer and immunotherapy, as will Jennifer A. Wargo, M.D., of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Laurence Zitvogel, M.D., Ph.D., of the Gustave Roussy Cancer Center.
  • Duncan R. McKenzie, Ph.D., a CRI postdoctoral fellow at The Francis Crick Institute (England), will be discussing the mechanisms through which immune cells on the skin survey for cancer.

We will also be providing a recap after each day of the conference, so be sure to check our blog for daily updates from CICON19!

Photo by Henrique on Unsplash.

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