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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Inspired By Her Mother, AACR Grantee Embarks on a Career in Cancer Research

Wen-Yang Lin, PhD, MS, currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the recipient of the 2017 AACR-Genentech Fellowship in Lung Cancer Research, is a relative newcomer to the field of cancer research. Previously, she had studied biomedical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles and neuroscience at the University of Washington, where her PhD thesis concerned growth control in Drosophila sensory neurons. During this time, Lin’s mother was diagnosed with stage II ovarian cancer. “My mother had been through several rounds of surgeries, tried different combinations of chemotherapies and radiation therapies,” Lin recalls, “but she still passed away only five years after the diagnosis.”

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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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FDA Approves First Targeted Therapeutic Based on Tumor Biomarker, Not Tumor Origin

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the highly anticipated approval of the molecularly targeted therapeutic larotrectinib (Vitrakvi) for use based on whether a patient’s tumor tests positive for a specific genetic biomarker and not where in the body the tumor originated.

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Patient Advocates Join Researchers to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities

Cancer patient advocates take on many roles in their communities. They may go out to churches to promote the benefits of cancer screening, lead patient and survivor support groups, or offer a patient’s perspective on review panels that evaluate research grants. Many times, an experience with cancer pushes people to accept advocacy roles to fill some unmet need or simply to give back.

All of these efforts were on display at this year’s American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved in New Orleans Nov. 2-5. Opening the conference, 10 patient survivors and caregivers of various ethnicities and types of cancers took to the stage to describe how cancer has changed them and what cancer research has given them personally.

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Examining the Tumor Microenvironment and Metabolism in Ovarian Cancer

Dong-Joo (Ellen) Cheon, PhD, Assistant Professor of Regenerative and Cancer Cell Biology at Albany Medical College and the 2017 AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award grantee, has been working in the field of ovarian cancer her entire career.

She was first introduced to ovarian cancer research as a graduate student at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston when she was tasked with generating CA125 knockout mice. CA125, or cancer antigen 125, is a blood serum biomarker routinely used to diagnose and monitor ovarian cancer.

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CAR-T Cells: “Bionic” Immune Cells for Treating Cancer

In the 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man, the narrator says of severely injured astronaut Steve Austin: “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.” The narrator was referring to “bionic” technologies that provided higher visual acuity, stunning strength, and the ability to run at speeds greater than 60 miles per hour.

Over the past few years, cancer immunologists have achieved a comparable feat. They have taken T cells—the immune cells capable of destroying infectious agents, foreign cells, and cancers—and rebuilt them to be better than they were, better at recognizing and killing cancer cells.

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AACR CEO Receives Women for Oncology Award

On Friday, Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research, was honored with the 2018 European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Women for Oncology Award for her role in supporting the career development of women in oncology.

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Can Artificial Intelligence Help Reduce False-positive Mammograms?

In a study published in the AACR’s journal Clinical Cancer Research, a team of scientists from the University of Pittsburgh discuss yet another area of cancer research where artificial intelligence (AI) can potentially solve a decades-long problem: false-positive results and high patient recall rates from breast cancer screening mammography.

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