AACR 2017 Preview: Trying to focus on everything

The AACR annual meeting can’t cover everything, but it may be as close as you can get in one place this year

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American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
AACR Annual Meeting 2017
April 1-5, 2017
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.
Trying to focus on everything
The AACR annual meeting can’t cover everything, but it may be as close as you can get in one place this year
WASHINGTON, D.C.—As is pretty much always the case with DDNews show previews such as these, you might be reading this after you’ve decided to go to the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) this year, in which case it’s your sneak-peek; you may be reading it while still trying to decide whether to register a bit late, in which case this preview may help tilt the scales for your decision; or you may read it at a point when it’s too late to attend, in which case you might get a sense of why you should strongly consider doing so next year.
And, you may get this issue before you head to the gathering (again, sneak-peek) or you may grab a copy at the show itself, in which case this might help you focus your planning for where to go and when to do it while you’re there at the AACR Annual Meeting 2017.
But, whichever of the above scenarios fits you, we always want there to be a “voice” in these show previews—we want not simply to recycle what’s on the annual meeting website but to give you human guidance. And about the only way to do that is to talk to the people who put together the event. Sometimes it’s a chorus of voices; sometimes a single representative.
This time, it’s Dr. Kornelia Polyak, the program committee chair for the AACR Annual Meeting 2017 and, in her day-to-day life, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a professor of medicine in the Department of Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
DDNews: What are the highlights of the annual meeting that you would really like to mention and why?
Dr. Kornelia Polyak: The theme of the meeting is “Research Propelling Cancer Prevention and Cures.” This title and the design of plenary and other major sessions highlights the need to focus on all major areas of cancer research: risk prediction and prevention, early detection, cancer therapies and delivering/accessing care. In general, more emphasis has been placed on cancer treatment, especially treatment of advanced-stage disease due to the urgency of the issue for saving lives. But, we know that preventing cancer and early detection actually have bigger impact on cancer mortality and morbidity than treating advanced disease. Thus, we have to make progress in all areas.
We will have major emphasis on immunology and immunotherapies, precision medicine for both treatment and prevention and also novel technologies such as CRISPR, liquid biospies and single-cell methods (genome-wide profiling and also imaging in situ)—these methods impact all areas of cancer research.
DDNews: What might be of particular interest at the conference for people in the drug discovery and development arena (discovery through clinical trials) and the diagnostics R&D arena (those being the areas most of our readers are in)? Why do those items stand out for you?
Polyak: There will be two “New Drugs on the Horizon” sessions that will be held back to back on Sunday, April 2. We will also have four clinical trials plenary sessions and three clinical trials minisymposia that are developed from submitted abstracts.
These sessions are currently under embargo; thus, I cannot disclose any of the specific details, but there will be several interesting updates on clinical trials—not surprisingly, immunotherapy and targeted therapies will dominate. There will also be several sessions in the Regulatory Science and Policy Track and Science Policy Track that may be of interest to individuals in the drug development area.
Lastly, there will be two methods workshops focusing on Clinical Trial Design:
  • Clinical Trials Design Workshop: Part 1: Saturday, April 1, 2017, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
  • Clinical Trials Design Workshop: Part 2: Saturday, April 1, 2017, 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
DDNews: What is new, different and/or expanded/refined since last year, and how so? What was the thinking behind making those changes?
Polyak: We are introducing several new sessions and session types. We will have a Presidential Select Symposium—a topic of the AACR president’s choosing. This will be on a topic that’s timely and the president would like to highlight. This year we chose disparities; the rationale was that we wanted to highlight the importance of delivering the best possible cancer prevention and treatment interventions to everyone, both within the U.S. and worldwide. In addition, we are learning more about the molecular basis of why certain cancers may affect particular populations differently and even why the disease could be different depending on interpersonal differences.
Also, the Special Session—Are There New Hallmarks of Cancer?—we have asked Bob Weinberg and Doug Hanahan to summarize their thoughts on recent developments in cancer research.
Further, Special Sessions—Unsolved Mysteries—these sessions will focus on important unsolved clinical problems. For example, why do we get cancer as we age and why don’t we get more cancer as we age? The sessions will be introduced and moderated by an expert in the field and we will have a clinician/population scientist present the clinical/epidemiologic problem with a basic scientist summarizing research designed to solve this problem.
In addition, each plenary session will focus on major advances in recent years and the talks will span from prevention/early detection to treatment and therapy resistance. We will also focus on integrated/convergent science—more and more we need people from different disciplines to work together to solve clinical/research problems.
All these changes were introduced to highlight the theme of the meeting: To decrease cancer-related deaths and morbidity, we need to focus on prevention, early detection, cures and also delivering all these to all populations.
DDNews: Any surprises in terms of putting together this year’s meeting (good ones, challenges, etc.)?
Polyak: I have always been impressed by the efficiency, professionalism and enthusiasm of the AACR staff and Marge Foti (AACR CEO Dr. Margaret Foti), and working with them more closely during the planning of this meeting just made me even more impressed. I have also enjoyed working with Nancy Davidson (AACR President Dr. Nancy Davidson)—she had numerous very wise suggestions both in terms of science and resolving potential conflicts. In terms of organizing the topics and sessions, it was difficult to cover everything new and interesting and select everyone who wanted to speak, despite the large number of sessions we will have.
DDNews: Is there anything you can tell us well in advance about new things/changes/etc. to expend in the 2018 conference?
Polyak: Unfortunately I cannot say anything specific as the 2018 conference theme and program will be determined by the new program chair and AACR president. But, in general, successful changes implemented one year are often carried over into the following year, and the same is true for less well received sessions/topics. This is why AACR always asks for feedback from attendees.
DDNews: And finally, something more AACR-specific, what is really “hot” right now in terms of oncology topics/research? Why? And, do any of these surprise you?
Polyak: I would say we are realizing more and more that cancer is a systemic disease and we need to understand and treat it like this. The success of immunotherapy and showing that the immune system impacts every process in our body and external factors (e.g., diet, exercise) also influence cancer in part via the immune system have been a major driving force of this. It is amazing to see that microbiome, immunology, metabolism and epigenetic and genetic changes in cancer cells all seem to be linked to each other. On the other hand, this should not be surprising as tumor development is an evolutionary process—this has been the approach I have been using in my own lab ever since we started working on breast cancer.

NextGen Stars for 2017
The NextGen Stars program provides an opportunity to increase the visibility of early-career scientists at the AACR annual meeting and to support the professional development and advancement of those selected to speak. Six such NextGen Stars will present their work in major sessions at the AACR Annual Meeting 2017. Selections were made through a competitive application process that was limited to AACR associate members and AACR active members who were at the junior faculty level (not higher than assistant professor or equivalent).
And, as to who the current NextGen Stars are, what they will be talking about and when:
Valsamo Anagnostou
 Johns Hopkins Kimmel Comprehensive  Cancer Center
“Evolution of neoantigen landscape during immune checkpoint blockade in non-small cell lung cancer”
Major Symposium
Mechanisms Regulating Immune Checkpoint Therapies
Monday, April 3, 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Bishoy Faltas
Weill Cornell Medical College
“Genomic dissection of the clonal evolution dynamics of chemotherapy-resistant urothelial carcinoma”
Recent Advances in Organ Site Research
Bladder Cancer
Wednesday, April 5, 10:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Amanda Lund
 Oregon Health & Science University
“Lymphatic vessels: Balancing immune priming and immune evasion in melanoma”
Major Symposium
The Effects of Tumor Microenvironment on Metastasis and Therapy Resistance
Monday, April 3, 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Nardin Samuel
University of Toronto
“TP53-mediated human cancer susceptibility is defined by epigenetic dysregulation of microRNA-34A”
Major Symposium
Dysregulation of MicroRNAs Leads to Target Therapy
Tuesday, April 4, 1 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Mingyang Song
Massachusetts General Hospital
“Marine Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid and colorectal cancer prevention and treatment”
Recent Advances in Prevention Research
Diet and Precision Medicine in Cancer Prevention: The Role of Genetic Background, the Microbiome, and Epigenetic Mechanisms
Monday, April 3, 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Jesse Zaretsky
University of California, Los Angeles
“Mechanisms of resistance to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy through interferon pathway mutations”
Major Symposium
Mechanisms of Primary and Acquired Resistance to Immunotherapy
Tuesday, April 4, 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

2017 AACR runners for Research 5K Run/Walk
Whether you're a walker or a runner, team up with the AACR to advance lifesaving cancer research.
Members of the AACR Runners for Research team participate in races around the country to support the AACR and more than 37,000 members who lead the effort to prevent and cure cancer. This year, AACR’s signature 5K will be held in Washington, D.C., as more than 20,000 cancer scientists, survivors, advocates and others gather April 1-5 for the AACR Annual Meeting 2017 to discuss the latest developments in the fight against cancer.
Date: Saturday, April 1
Time: 7 a.m.
Start/Finish Line Location: 696 Ohio Dr. SW, Washington, D.C. [East Potomac Park]
Cost: $50 registration fee for AACR Annual Meeting attendees; $40 for area residents; free for cancer survivors

Exhibit dates and times
Sunday, April 2
1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday, April 3
​9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday, April 4
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
​Wednesday, April 5
​9 a.m. to Noon

AACR 2017 Cancer and Biomedical Research Career Fair
Saturday, April 1, 2017
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Join AACR at its 2017 Annual Cancer and Biomedical Research Career Fair in Washington, D.C., on April 1, 2017. As a job seeker, you will have the opportunity to connect with employers from academia, government and industry. Representatives from prospective employers will be available to interview job seekers during the fair. Visit CancerCareers.org to learn more about the AACR Career Fair and to upload your C.V.

Professional development opportunities at the AACR annual meeting
In support of its mission to promote the education and training of cancer scientists and clinicians and to cultivate a highly skilled and diverse cancer research workforce, the AACR provides annual meeting attendees at all career stages—from high school students to senior investigators—with the following opportunities and resources to enhance and advance their careers:
  • Professional and Career Advancement Sessions
  • NextGen Stars: Speaking Opportunities for Early-Career Scientists
  • Networking Hubs for Young Investigators
  • AACR 2017 Cancer and Biomedical Research Career Fair
  • AACRcentral: Networking, Resource, and Career Centers
  • Continuing Medical Education

Future AACR annual meetings
April 14-18, 2018
March 30-April 3, 2019
Atlanta, Georgia

AACR meetings, conferences, and workshops under development
  • New Horizons in Cancer Research
  • AACR/ASCO Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop (July 2018)
  • AACR-SNMMI Joint Conference on State-of-the-Art Molecular Imaging in Cancer Biology and Therapy (February 2018)
  • CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR: The International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science Into Survival (September 2018)
  • ECCO-AACR-EORTC-ESMO Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop (June 2018)
  • EORTC-NCI-AACR Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics International Symposium (November 2018)
  • Fifth AACR-IASLC International Joint Conference on Lung Cancer Translational Science: From the Bench to the Clinic (January 2018)
  • Integrative Molecular Epidemiology Workshop (July 2018)
  • Lymphoma
  • Melanoma
  • Metabolism
  • Molecular Biology in Clinical Oncology Workshop (July 2018)
  • New Horizons in Cancer Research
  • Novel Models Systems / Humanized Models
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • PI3K / mTOR
  • RAS
  • San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (December 2018)
  • Targeting DNA Methylation and Chromatin for Cancer Therapy
  • The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved
  • Translational Cancer Research for Basic Scientists Workshop
  • Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy (November 2018)

AACR joins the global cancer community in recognizing World Cancer Day
The organization encourages collaboration among cancer researchers through global scientific meetings, other international initiatives
​PHILADELPHIA—In recognition of World Cancer Day, Feb. 4, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) expressed its support for the international awareness day and highlighted several activities it is undertaking to promote collaboration among cancer researchers around the world in 2017.
“The global burden of cancer remains immense. Defeating this scourge will require a robust and productive exchange of ideas among cancer researchers and other stakeholders from all over the world,” said Dr. Margaret Foti, CEO of the AACR. “The AACR is proud to facilitate these collaborations through our scientific meetings, initiatives such as AACR Project GENIE, partnerships with other cancer organizations, and offices outside the United States in Shanghai and Toronto.
“We also believe strongly in the importance of public education to combat the cancer problem. On this World Cancer Day, we enthusiastically join people across the globe in raising awareness about the importance of cancer research, prevention, and treatment. Together, we can stem the tide against this insidious disease and save more lives.”
Earlier this year, the AACR hosted two events in Cape Town, South Africa: the AACR-AORTIC Workshop on Capacity Building for Cancer Research in Africa and the AACR International Conference on New Frontiers in Cancer Research. These groundbreaking events—the first programs ever offered by the AACR on the African continent—are stepping stones for increased collaborations among laboratory researchers, population scientists, and clinicians in the United States and in Africa.
This May, the AACR will host another “first”—the AACR International Conference on Translational Cancer Medicine in São Paulo, Brazil. This conference, held in cooperation with the Latin American Cooperative Oncology Group, will bridge basic and clinical research and thus fosters translational cancer research in Latin America, thereby providing service to the scientific and medical communities in the region. The next conference in the New Horizons in Cancer Research Series will be returning to Shanghai, China, in the fall.
The organization will partner with a number of international organizations on other conferences and workshops throughout the year:
  • The 14th International Conference on Malignant Lymphoma in Lugano, Switzerland, is the must-attend event for the scientific community involved in the study and treatment of lymphoid neoplasms. The AACR partners with the organizers on various aspects of the program which, this year, will include a sponsored keynote lecture, a special joint session, and a pre-conference workshop.
  • The ECCO-AACR-EORTC-ESMO Workshop on Methods in Clinical Cancer Research in Zeist, the Netherlands, is an educational program that introduces junior clinical oncologists to the principles of good clinical trial design.
  • At the EACR-AACR-SIC Special Conference 2017: The Challenges of Optimizing Immuno- and Targeted Therapies: From Cancer Biology to the Clinic in Florence, Italy, leading experts will discuss both targeted and immunological approaches to interfere with cancer, the need to increase our fundamental understanding of tumor heterogeneity and drug resistance mechanisms, how to better stratify patients for therapy and the role of microenvironmental factors influencing therapy response.
  • In August, the Croucher Foundation will host its third biennial Summer Course on Cancer Biology in Hong Kong. As in 2013 and 2015, the AACR will offer travel awards to three meritorious students to offset the cost of their attendance.
  • The Third CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference will take place in Mainz/Frankfurt, Germany. Through this conference collaboration, the organizers aim to more effectively and efficiently disseminate the latest cutting-edge information and research in cancer immunology and immunotherapy, and to provide an opportunity for teaching, learning, and networking among all stakeholders in the field.
The AACR’s international efforts reach far beyond its scientific meetings. AACR membership now includes more than 37,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and patient advocates residing in 108 countries. Thirty-one percent of AACR members are located outside the United States.
The AACR is the Coordinating Center for AACR Project GENIE, an international data-sharing project that counts institutions in Canada, France, and the Netherlands among its participants. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the AACR collaborates with SU2C and cancer research organizations around the world on several research grants.
The AACR is a longstanding co-host of the annual International Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics with the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer. In 2014, the organization opened offices in Shanghai, China, and Toronto, Canada.
Held annually on Feb. 4, World Cancer Day is an international initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) that aims to raise awareness about the global cancer burden, empower individuals with information that will help them take a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer and encourage governments to make cancer research, screening, and treatment national priorities. The AACR is an active member of the UICC, an organization that brings together the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes and patient groups to accelerate the fight against cancer.

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