AACR Annual Meeting 2012: Concentrated delivery

In an age when diverse oncology areas must pull together and more therapeutic options emerge, AACR packs a lot into a few days

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CHICAGO—If there is one key thing on which the president ofthe American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the program chair forthe AACR Annual Meeting 2012 wholeheartedly agree, it's that they suffer fromno shortage of material.
In fact, it's safe to say that if temporary cloning werepossible, they'd have offered that as a service so you could attend every lastsession.
"What is particularly challenging is the scope of thescience. AACR is all things to all people, and we have to cover the mostexciting activities over a very wide range of disciplines," says AACR'spresident, Dr. Judy E. Garber, who is director of the Center for CancerGenetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a professor ofmedicine at Harvard Medical School. "We end up with a meeting where you wouldliterally like to go to every session, but you just can't."
That challenge isn't unique to AACR as an organization or toits annual meeting specifically, notes Dr. Benjamin G. Neel, the programcommittee chairperson for the AACR Annual Meeting 2012 and director of the OntarioCancer Institute, as well as a senior scientist in the institute's Division ofStem Cell and Developmental Biology. But in oncology, he says, the level ofthat challenge is stepped up considerably and that is "thanks to the wisdom andhard work of generations of people worldwide who have supported cancer researchand the knowledge gained in cancer biology and now translational cancermedicine."
The huge explosion in cancer knowledge over just the pastdecade, Neel says, makes planning an event like this a process that is bothencouraging and intimidating, even with a venue as big as Chicago's McCormickPlace, where the event will be held March 31 to April 4.
"We're a very small group of people taking an extraordinaryamount of useful information and trying to figure out just what to put into theannual meeting so that we get to people what they really need, because there isno way to fit all of it into a few days," he says. "One of the things thatstruck me as I got together with Judy in January to go over where we were atwith the meeting preparations is that there are so many areas of cancerresearch and treatment that I don't normally pay attention to, and now I'mlooking forward to hearing all of it. But, you know, there is no way possiblethat any human can go to all of these sessions. That's simultaneously bracing,exciting and disappointing to me."
If nothing else, Neel says, it's a great reason for himselfand other attendees to obtain the webcasts of the meeting, "so that we cannot only pick the sessions that we most need or want to attend in person butthen also stay up late and spend another couple weeks after the meeting goingover the things we couldn't see firsthand."
Accommodating new knowledge and keeping up with the needs ofAACR members and others who attend the meeting has meant some changes thisyear, some of them entirely new features in the program.
"One of the big things we did was to reorganize the meetinga bit to add more sessions," Garber says. "We've had sessions on currentconcept and controversies in organ site research in the past, but there havebeen a lot of emerging themes in targeted therapies and diagnosis in the pastseveral years, so we added an entire program on current concepts andcontroversies in therapeutics, diagnostics and prevention as well."
Also, AACR chose this year's meeting to pay specialattention to the field of immune therapy in cancer. "We have an entire majorsymposium on immune therapy and I think that's very timely because the firsttwo immune-based approaches for cancer were approved in the past year," Neelnotes. "Also, one of the things we really wanted to emphasize is the need tobegin to rationally combine targeted drug therapies and immune-based therapiesto get to increased survival rates and more durable cures."
Moreover, there are more presentations dealing withpediatric cancers this year and an entire major symposium—the AACR/ASCOPresidential Symposium—dedicated to new insights in pediatric oncology.
Another area of special attention this year, Garber and Neelsay, are talks dealing with regulatory science issues.
"One of the newest tracks at the meeting is on regulatoryscience, something we thought was important with various groups working withthe FDA on all these targeted therapies and biomarkers to ensure processes areclearer, safer and more productive from the industry and inventory points ofview so that they can positively impact large groups of people," Garber says.
Neel anticipates that those who attend the 2012 AACR meetingwill be pleased with the mix of speakers. He acknowledges that a frequentcomment made by attendees of past events has been the perception that "the sameold people are speaking all of the time." But Neel says there is a good mix ofold faces and new ones this year. He also says that the 2012 meeting may verywell have the largest number of younger investigators coming to the meeting forthe first time.
"We've got a range of what has been done as well as what isbeing done and what will be done in the future," he says. "This is a very largemeeting and it really runs the gamut from basic discovery-based lab findings totherapeutics in the clinic."
Neel says the AACR is trending ahead of last year'sregistration numbers so far, but he notes there is no way to know whether theywill meet or surpass last year's attendance until after the convention isunderway, given that there will be on-site registration.
In any case, Garber encourages cancer researchers to attendfor the sake of doing better science—if not this year, then in the future.
"This is the largest conference for cancer scientistsin the world. Communication among different disciplines has really changed, andwith translational medicine and the like, people have come to realize that youcannot work in your own little bubble anymore," she says. "Basic scientists,clinical scientists and translational scientists have to work together forcancer research to move forward and go into the clinic, because they're alltied together more and more as greater progress is made. This annual meeting isa great opportunity to get outside of your area a bit and find out what newresearch touches upon your own discipline and can enhance your own work. Theannual meeting is really the cross-fertilization center and a really efficientway to pick up new knowledge and make important personal connections withpeople in your own areas and other areas of cancer research."
(More show-related content is below, and for even more pre-show coverage, including photos of Chicago, what to do there, and additional AACR news, you can click here to open up that additional material in a new browser window) 

Keeping up with AACR

On their website: www.aacr.org

On Twitter: @AACR or https://twitter.com/aacr

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aacr.org 

(Note: All photos on this web page are from the AACR Annual Meeting 2011)

Honoring scientificachievement 
PHILADELPHIA—Since 1961, the AACR has presented more than278 prizes, awards and lectureships to recognize the scientific achievements ofscientists and physicians who collectively have made significant contributionsto the understanding, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cancer. Followingare the awards and lectureships to be presented at the AACR Annual Meeting2012:
AACR Margaret FotiAward—Honors an individual for leadership and extraordinary achievement incancer research.  
AACR Award forLifetime Achievement in Cancer Research—Honors an individual who has madesignificant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through asingle scientific discovery or a body of work.
AACR PrincessTakamatsu Memorial Lectureship—Recognizes an individual scientist whosenovel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on thedetection, diagnosis, treatment or prevention of cancer and who embodies thededication of the princess to multinational collaborations.
AACR Team ScienceAward—Acknowledges and catalyzes the growing importance ofinterdisciplinary teams to the understanding of cancer and/or the translationof research discoveries into clinical cancer applications.
PezcollerFoundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research—Given to ascientist of international renown who has made a major scientific discovery inbasic cancer research or who has made significant contributions totranslational cancer research.
AACR Joseph H.Burchenal Memorial Award—Presented for outstanding achievement in clinicalcancer research.
AACR-American CancerSociety Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention—Recognizesoutstanding research accomplishments in cancer epidemiology, biomarkers andprevention.
AACR Award forOutstanding Achievement in Cancer Research—Intended to give recognition toa young investigator (not more than 40 years of age) on the basis ofmeritorious achievement in cancer research.
AACR Award forOutstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research—Given foroutstanding, novel and significant chemistry research that has led to importantcontributions to the fields of basic cancer research, translational cancerresearch, cancer diagnosis, the prevention of cancer or the treatment ofpatients with cancer. 
AACR G.H.A. ClowesMemorial Award—Given for outstanding recent accomplishments in basic cancerresearch.
AACR Richard andHinda Rosenthal Memorial Award—Honors and provides incentive toinvestigators relatively early in their careers (not more than 50 years of age)who are engaged in the practice of medicine and who reside in the Americas, forresearch that has made, or promises to soon make, a notable contribution toimproved clinical care in the field of cancer. 
AACR-Minorities inCancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship—Awarded to an outstandingscientist who has made meritorious contributions to the field of cancerresearch and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered theadvancement of minority investigators in cancer research.
AACR-Women in CancerResearch Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship—Provided to an outstandingscientist who has made meritorious contributions to the field of cancerresearch and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered theadvancement of women in science.
AACR-Irving WeinsteinFoundation Distinguished Lectureship—Intended to recognize and presentoutstanding science that has the potential to inspire new thinking andperspectives on the etiology, progression and prevention of cancer.

Working for a living
CHICAGO—Building on the success of previous AACR Cancer andBiomedical Research Career Fairs, the 2012 Career Fair at the AACR AnnualMeeting 2012 is intended to provide many opportunities for both job seekers andemployers. This annual event brings job seekers with highly specializedscientific skills—such as basic and translational researchers, clinicians andepidemiologists—together with employers representing academia, cancer centers,government and industry.
The research career fair will be held on Saturday, March 31,and some 7,500 scientists are expected to attend the event.
The AACR also wants to draw attention to its "improvedand unique career and job posting center," the AACR CancerCareers.Org Center."As an employer, you will have the opportunity to bring your scientific jobopenings to the attention of thousands of the world's most brilliant minds invarious scientific fields such as basic, translational, epidemiologic andbehavioral research," AACR notes. "As a cancer biomedical researcher, you willhave the ability to utilize AACR's CancerCareers.Org Center in your search forscientific career opportunities."

Upcoming AACR AnnualMeetings
April 6-10, 2013
Washington, D.C.
April 5-9, 2014
San Diego
April 18-22, 2015
April 16-20, 2016
New Orleans

Major symposia at theAACR Annual Meeting 2012
  • AACR/ASCO Presidential Symposium—Learning from Our Children:New Insights in Pediatric Oncology   Autophagy and Cancer  
  •  The Bayard D. Clarkson Symposium on Stem Cells and Cancer:Stem Cells, Self-Renewal and Cancer  
  •  Biologic Factors Associated With Cancer Disparities  
  •  Can Cancer Prevention Be Individualized?    
  •  Cell and Tissue Size Control in Cancer  
  •  Chromatin and the Epigenome as Drug Targets  
  •  Clinical Trial Design in the Era of High-Density DataAnalysis  
  •  Control of Metabolic Pathways and Cancer  
  •  Designing Rational Combination Therapy for Cancer  
  •  Determining the Cell of Origin in Cancers  
  •  Developmental Pathways in Cancer  
  •  DNA Damage Repair and Cancer Therapy  
  •  Dormant and Stem Cells in Tumor Heterogeneity  
  •  Genetics and Epigenetics of Hematologic Malignancies
  •  Genomic Integrity in Cancer  
  •  Genomics and Progression of Metastasis
  •  Hypoxia: ROS and the Response to Therapy
  •  Immune Cell Function and Cancer In Vivo: Visualizing Friends and Foes  
  •  Impact of Brain-Immune System Interactions on CancerDevelopment and Health-Related Quality of Life  
  •  In Vivo SystemsBiology: Modeling Regulatory Networks in the Mouse  
  •  Influence of Energy Balance and Obesity on CancerDisparities: The MICR Scientific Symposium   Integrative Functional Genomics
  •  Interrogating Antitumor Immunity
  •  Interrogating the Logic of the Cancer Cell: Lessons FromIntegrative and Systems Biology Approaches  
  •  Medicines Targeting Genetic Alterations  
  •  Metastasis-Initiating Cells and Niches  
  •  Microbiome, Viruses and Cancer  
  •  microRNAs and Cancer  
  •  Modulating Antitumor Responses by Stromal Cells and InnateImmunity  
  •  Molecular Imaging in Cancer Therapy: Functionalizing theCancer Genome  
  •  Mouse Models for Gene Discovery, Prevention and Treatment  
  •  Nontraditional Targets of Small-Molecule Therapeutics:Emerging Technologies in the Post-Antibody Era  
  •  Pediatric Cancer Genomics: Honoring St. Jude Children'sResearch Hospital's 50th AnniversaryPost-GWAS Functional Characterization of Cancer Risk Loci  
  •  Posttranslational Modifications in DNA Repair  
  •  Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases and Cancer  
  •  The Ras/Raf Pathway in Cancer  
  •  The Ruth Sager Memorial Symposium on Cancer Genetics andEpigenetics: Chromatin, Transcriptional Regulation and Cancer  
  •  Screening and Cancer Prevention in UnderdevelopedEnvironments  
  •  The Stanley J. Korsmeyer Memorial Symposium: ProgrammedNecrosis  
  •  Stem Cells and Epigenetics  
  •  Tumor Extracellular Matrix: An Emerging Target for Therapies  
  •  Vascular Reprogramming to Improve Clinical Outcome 
  • Visualizing the Metabolic Environment of Tumors

Plenary sessions atthe AACR Annual Meeting 2012
Sunday, April 1
The Cancer BiologyRevolution: From Concept to Clinic
  • Emerging landscape of the tumor genome
  • The genetic basis for cancer therapeutics
  • Mobilizing the immune system to treat cancer: New insightsand opportunities
  • Human papillomavirus in the etiology and prevention ofgenital cancers
  • Molecular mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance
Monday, April 2
Tumor Heterogeneity:Challenges and Therapeutic Opportunities
  • Normalizing tumor microenvironment to treat cancer
  • Reprogramming immune microenvironments in solid tumors andtherapy
  • Stem cells in self-renewal and cancer
  • Genomic mapping of cancer origins
Tuesday, April 3
Immune Therapies: TheFuture Is Now
  • Targeted blockade of immune checkpoints in cancer therapy
  • Chimeric antigen receptor T-cells for leukemia and more? 
  • Current status of recombinant pox-viral vaccines
  • T-cell therapy
Wednesday, April 4 
Pathway-TargetedTherapeutics: Coming of Age
  • Overcoming cancer drug resistance
  • Ras and Raf signaling: From biology to therapeutics
  • ALK in non-small cell lung cancer: Understanding sensitivityand resistance to ALK inhibition
  • Cell signaling by receptor tyrosine kinases: From basicprinciples to cancer therapy

  • AACR Annual Meeting2012 forums
    • Assessing Antiangiogenic Drugs Preclinically: How Predictiveand Clinically Relevant Are the Models?
    • Building Effective Research Teams and Collaborations toAddress Cancer Health Disparities: The MICR Forum
    • Can siRNA Cure Cancer?
    • Circulating Tumor Cells: Enumeration and MolecularCharacterization Are Great, But Do They Have Clinical Utility?
    • Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?
    • Envisioning Improved Anticancer Drug Development
    • Epigenetics or Epiphenomena?
    • Genomic Signatures and Predictive Biomarkers in BreastCancer: Challenges and Controversies  
    • How Can We Improve the Success Rate for Oncology Drugs?
    • Intermediate Endpoints for Cancer Prevention Trials:Progress or Paralysis?
    • Is There a Metastatic Niche?  
    • Nutrition and Cancer: How Much Does It Really Matter?
    • Viruses in Cancer Diagnostics and Therapeutics
    • What Can We Learn About Cancer From Nonmammalian Models?
  • What Has GWAS Taught Us About Cancer?
  • What Is the Origin of Serous Ovarian Carcinoma: SurfaceEpithelium vs. Distal Fallopian Tube?
  • Will Metformin Prevent and/or Cure Cancer?
  • (For more pre-show coverage, including photos of Chicago, what to do there, and additional AACR news, click here.)

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