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Innovative cancer science hot topic at conference

By Kathleen Goss, PhD

The Annual Meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), the premier international cancer research organization, welcomed more than 25,000 scientists to Chicago in mid-April. The theme of the conference, “Driving Innovative Cancer Science to Patient Care,” reflects the exciting progress being made across the cancer research enterprise and, importantly, the translation of these discoveries to improve clinical care. Immunotherapy, CART therapy, big data, personalized medicine, cancer disparities, cancer risk and survivorship, and the role of the tumor microenvironment were among the hot topics at this year’s conference.

Many of the faculty and trainees showcased their latest research findings at the conference, including the following highlights.

Melody Swartz, PhD, William B. Ogden Professor of Molecular Engineering, presented in a plenary session on her work investigating the role of lymphatic vessels in shaping the tumor microenvironment.

M. Eileen Dolan, PhD, professor of medicine, delivered a plenary talk on her research into the pharmacogenomics of chemotherapy-induced toxicities, including those that show disparities among different populations.

Thomas Gajewski, MD, PhD, AbbVie Foundation Professor of Cancer Immunotherapy, chaired a major symposium on resistance to immunotherapy and presented his work on integrating tumor and host mechanisms of immunotherapy efficacy and resistance.

Michelle Le Beau, PhD, Arthur and Marian Edelstein Professor of Medicine and Director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, discussed therapy-related neoplasms, including the genetics and role of the microenvironment, in a Meet-the-Expert session.

Samuel Volchenboum, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, spoke on the Pediatric Cancer Research Data Commons project at the Pediatric Cancer Working Group Town Hall Meeting.

Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, FACP, FASCO, Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics, presented on innovative strategies for overcoming global disparities in cancer risk and assessment. She also discussed cancer genetics and personalized medicine at a community education event.

Tanguy Seiwert, MD, assistant professor of medicine, presented a late-breaking research talk on his work characterizing biomarkers predictive of response to pembrolizumab immunotherapy in head and neck cancer.

Iris Romero, MD, associate professor of obstetrics/gynecology, discussed her research on repurposing metformin as a metabolically targeted ovarian cancer treatment in a session on systemic metabolism and cancer.

Phillip Connell, MD, professor of radiation and cellular oncology, presented his work in generating a recombination proficiency score to provide prognostic information and predict sensitivity to treatment in a session on biomarkers of radiation response.

Chuan He, PhD, John T. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry, discussed RNA methylation in cancer progression in a major symposium on RNA modifications in cancer.

Maryellen Giger, PhD, A.N. Pritzker Professor of Radiology, presented her research on radiomics and deep learning in breast cancer diagnosis in a major symposium on radiomics and quantitative imaging.

Kay Macleod, PhD, associate professor of the Ben May Department for Cancer Research, presented her work on autophagy in tumor progression and metastasis in an education session.

Faculty members Akash Patnaik, MD, PhD, MMSc, Aasim Padela, MD, MSc, Raymond Moellering, PhD, and Howard Halpern, MD, PhD, presented posters on their latest research findings.

Cancer biology PhD students Anna Dembo (Greene laboratory) and Payal Tiwari (Rosner and Becker), and postdoctoral fellows Tiha Long (Conzen and Szmulewitz), Jun Ishihara (Swartz and Hubbell), Lili Ren (Nakamura) and Boya Deng (Nakamura) all presented mini-symposium talks.

Research associate (assistant professor) Sonia Hernandez, PhD (Kandel) was awarded a Minority Faculty Award, and postdoctoral fellow Steve Seung-Young Lee, PhD (Kron) received a Scholar-in-Training Award.

Kathleen Goss, PhD, is the director for strategic partnerships and senior science writer at the UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center.


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