Eric Rosenthal Reports

Thoughts and observations about issues, trends, and controversies in the cancer community.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

AACR Annual Meeting: A Peek at Some of This Year’s Highlights and Changes




With the theme of “Personalizing Cancer Care Through Discovery Science,” this year’s American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting (April 6-10, in Washington, DC) will have more sessions related to clinical trials, including four special sessions devoted to four trials each involving:

·    immune-based therapies,

·    clinical pharmacology of novel agents in solid tumors,

·    advances in hematological malignancies, and

·    PI3 kinase.

In addition, noted AACR CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, speaking in an interview on Wednesday about some of the conference highlights, the Clinical Trials in Progress Poster Session will be held for the second year (from 8 am to noon on April 9). There will also be new sessions focusing on epidemiology and prevention.


The opening plenary session, she continued, will include a presentation by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, DPhil (PhD), who will draw from his book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, to comment on the future of cancer research and the importance of funding.


The film and TV rights to the book were acquired about two years ago by Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), which is now involved in producing a multi-part documentary; AACR has been SU2C’s scientific partner since the initiative’s inception in 2008.


One of Stand Up’s cofounders, ABC-TV journalist Katie Couric, will be honored by AACR with its Distinguished Public Service Award. In addition, Foti said, a news conference at the meeting will provide updates on the scientific work of the original five SU2C Dream Teams and the new Pediatric Cancer Dream Team will be announced.


AACR President Frank McCormick, PhD, Director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Stephen Friend, MD, PhD, founder of Sage Bionetworks, are scheduled to announce the new RAS Pathway “Social Interactome” Project they initiated. Foti described the effort, now in the pilot phase, as a “new model of communication,” using new technology to bring scientists together to understand the various types of research within a particular area and identify potential collaborators. The Annual Meeting will serve as a means to draw from an even larger research universe and then break them down into individual communities, she said.


Another new addition will be the introduction of the AACR Academy and the inauguration of its first class of Fellows. Foti explained that the Academy was created to recognize and honor distinguished researchers “whose major scientific contributions have propelled significant innovation and progress against cancer.” A total of 106 members will be inducted this year – that number was chosen in recognition of AACR’s age (the association was founded in 1907) – and for each year thereafter, the plan is to induct a maximum of 11 members, “honoring AACR’s 11 founders,” she said.


The “Rally for Medical Research” -- which will preempt the conference for the first time in its history -- is scheduled for Monday, April 8, from 11 am to 12:15 pm on the steps of the Carnegie Library, across the street from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. So far, more than 60 other organizations have signed up to participate.


Foti said that with a month still to go, the meeting’s registration is seven percent higher than last year at this time and is on track to have approximately 17,500 attendees, which would make it one of the largest AACR conferences ever.


She noted that there will be a large international contingent and that the Washington venue would be bringing in many researchers from nearby government agencies. Also reflecting the Washington location and the association’s relationship with the Food and Drug Administration, the meeting will feature several regulatory science and policy sessions.


“We have a 23 percent increase in nonmember academics and a 20 percent increase in nonmember industry attendees, and the number of abstracts submitted has risen three percent this year -- to 6,311,” she said.


In addition, Foti noted, the Exhibition Hall is sold out, and there will be 87 new companies exhibiting this year.