Karen Olsen, PhD

Karen Olsen, PhD, is a science writer at the AACR, where she facilitates the communication of the latest cancer research to the general public and to the trade press. Before joining the AACR, Olsen completed her postdoctoral training at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, where she investigated the role that epigenetic regulators play in cancers and neuronal disorders. She received her doctorate in chemistry from Purdue University, where she focused on integral membrane proteins associated with disease. Olsen lives in Center City Philadelphia.

Carl June, MD, Talks CAR T-cell Therapies at AACR Conference

One of the most watched areas in the immuno-oncology field is the development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. Carl June, MD, professor in immunotherapy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, is a pioneer in the CAR T field; he helped to treat the first child with CAR T-cell therapy, which was experimental at the time. Emily Whitehead, who was treated with CAR T cells in 2012 for acute lymphoblastic leukemia after she relapsed twice following treatment with chemotherapy, remains in complete remission today.

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How Can We Turn “Cold” Pancreatic Tumors “Hot”?

Pancreatic cancer remains a challenging disease to treat, with a five-year survival rate of less than 9 percent, according to recent statistics. Unlike many other cancers, which can now be treated with checkpoint blockade immunotherapy, pancreatic cancer often does not respond to this type of treatment. One potential reason for this lack of efficacy is that pancreatic tumors tend to be nonimmunogenic, meaning that the cancer fails to elicit a strong immune response.

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Malignancy, MSI Status, and the Microbiome

The human microbiome – the collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms that live inside and on the surface of our bodies – has garnered significant scientific interest in recent years. The Human Microbiome Project (HMP), which was launched in 2007, seeks to characterize the diverse microbiota to help understand how these microbes impact human health and disease. Initial results from the HMP predict that over 10,000 microbial species coexist within the human ecosystem.

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Party with a Purpose Joins AACR to Support Prostate Cancer Research

For the third year running, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has been selected as the beneficiary of the 18th annual Party with a Purpose, a cause-driven gala in Philadelphia that supports lifesaving cancer research. Funds raised at this year’s event will be dedicated to research focused on prostate cancer. This common cancer is estimated to affect nearly 165,000 men in 2018, according to recent statistics.

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What is Convergence? How Can It Further Cancer Research?

The 30th Anniversary AACR Special Conference Convergence: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Prediction in Cancer is focusing on a relatively new interdisciplinary field that seeks to further cancer research through the use of mathematics and computation, among other disciplines.

We had the opportunity to speak with both co-chairs about convergence and several areas of interest that will be discussed at the upcoming meeting, to be held Oct. 14-17 in Newport, Rhode Island.

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A New Device to Monitor Heart Dysfunction in Childhood Cancer Survivors

Anthracyclines, a widely used class of chemotherapeutics, work in several ways to kill rapidly dividing cells, including those found in a tumor. While these drugs are commonly used to treat many types of adult and childhood cancer, they have a detrimental side effect – cardiotoxicity.

The cardiotoxicity of anthracyclines is dose-dependent; the more exposure patients have to the drug, the more serious risk they carry for heart-related problems. This can represent a unique challenge in children treated with anthracyclines, whose hearts are still developing.

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Liquid Biopsy: Promises and Problems

Biopsies have been an integral part of cancer care for decades. In undiagnosed patients, oncologists can examine suspicious tissues and determine if the cells are benign or malignant. Following diagnosis, biopsies can reveal additional information about a patient’s tumor – What mutations are driving this cancer? Is this patient likely to respond to a particular therapy? In cases of cancer recurrence, biopsies can provide further information – Has this patient become resistant to treatment? Is the tumor driven by different mutations?

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Q&A With Ari M. Melnick, MD, on Recent Advances in Lymphoma

Lymphomas are a collection of blood cancers stemming from aberrant lymphocytes, which are critical components of the immune system. Lymphomas are classically divided into two categories – Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). It is estimated that over 90 percent of lymphomas are NHL, of which there are many distinct subtypes. Recent statistics estimate that nearly 75,000 new cases of NHL will be diagnosed in 2018.

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Utilizing Patient-reported Outcomes in Cancer Clinical Trials

Assessing new anticancer therapeutics in clinical trials is a vital step in evaluating the toxicity and efficacy of treatment before its approval for widespread use. Throughout these trials, many patients encounter a variety of side effects, ranging from physical ailments such as nausea or rash to psychological symptoms such as depression or anxiety. While it is standard practice to record clinician-reported outcomes to characterize safety, there is no current standard requirement for the use of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in cancer clinical trials.

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