The Sentinel


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

JITC Letter From the Editor - September

Dear JITC Readers,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to this edition of the JITC digest. A new academic year is getting underway for many of our readers, and regardless of the “new normal” imposed by COVID-19, the journal continues to publish groundbreaking research from across the immunotherapy field.
The articles spotlighted in this month’s digest exemplify how the immunotherapy field excels at bringing a new perspective to processes or therapies that might be considered familiar—thus advancing our discipline in novel and important new directions.
John C. Flickinger Jr., and colleagues creatively overcome the obstacle inherent in many cancer vaccine approaches of pre-existing host immunity to the adenoviral backbone by engineering a new chimeric vector.
By taking a new look at a familiar cytokine, Tal Kan et al provide evidence that IL-31 may induce anti-tumor immunity in breast cancer.
New immune response biomarkers that could help identify patients with melanoma who may benefit from combination radiotherapy and CTLA-4 blockade are described by Celine Boutros and colleagues. Additionally, evidence for safety and efficacy with retreatment with anti-PD-L1 therapy after discontinuation for reasons other than toxicity or progression is provided by Siddharth Sheth et al.
Although the results were negative for a first-in-human trial for a first-in-class, orally administered, selective dual inhibitor of IDO1 and TDO2, reported by Aung Naing and colleagues, the findings could set the stage for future studies of rational combinations of therapies targeting tryptophan metabolism and other immunotherapy agents.
Finally, a first-of-its-kind study by Pedro Barata et al demonstrates the feasibility of using a commercially available cell-free DNA assay to identify patients with advanced prostate cancer and microsatellite instability-high tumors who may benefit from pembrolizumab.
To further your reading this month, be sure to browse JITC’s Reading List, with an intriguing selection of papers drawn from the viral immunology world, selected by Dr. Howard Kaufman.

Best regards,

Pedro J. Romero, MD
Editor-in-Chief, Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer

To view the entire September 2020 JITC Digest, please click here

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

President's Message - September 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Our society continues its preparations toward our fully virtual 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting & Pre-Conference Programs (SITC 2020), scheduled for Nov. 9–14, 2020. Please take note that the SITC 2020 meeting registration fee has been waived for ALL SITC members. You can become a member or renew your membership during the SITC 2020 online registration process.

Also, to accommodate for the COVID-19 impact on cancer immunotherapy research this year, the late-breaking abstract (LBA) submission period will be opened to everyone. SITC will not require an LBA application to be submitted beforehand. Previously submitted LBA applications will automatically be invited to submit a full LBA during the LBA submission period, Sept. 8-22, 2020, at 5 p.m. PDT.

In addition to the intense preparations for the Annual Meeting, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer continues to make progress on its objectives for this year. Educating clinicians on all aspects of cancer immunotherapy is one of our main objectives and directly serves the goal of improving patient outcomes. This past month the Certificate in Cancer Immunotherapy Program was launched, and is being offered online via our society’s SITC Cancer Immunotherapy connectED platform. The SITC certificate consists of eight learning modules all of which offer relevant education credits (CME, CNE, CPE and MOC).  After successful completion of the modules, the SITC Graduate in Cancer Immunotherapy (SITC-G) designation is granted and identifies a healthcare provider who has completed specialized training in cancer immunotherapy.

The first of eight modules, presented by Robert Ferris, MD, PhD (Director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hillman Cancer Center, long-time SITC member and past At-Large Director), is now online. It covers basic concepts of immunology, including innate and adaptive immune responses. The other seven module topics, which will be launched in the weeks ahead, include:

·         Basic Cancer Immunotherapy Concepts
·         Immune Checkpoint Blockade
·         Managing Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Adverse Events
·         Other Approaches, including Cytokines, Vaccines, Immune Cell Engagers
·         Oncolytic Viruses and Intralesional Therapy
·         CAR T Cell and Cellular Therapy
·         Implementing Cancer Immunotherapy in Clinical Practice

SITC executive leadership, faculty and staff have put many months of effort in the planning and continued execution of this exciting new SITC program. I would like to thank all of those involved in the Certificate in Cancer Immunotherapy program, including Executive Director Tara Withington, CAE, and Past President Howard L. Kaufman, MD, FACS, both of whom championed this effort and the need for such a program for multiple years.

To learn more about eligibility requirements to earn your Certificate in Cancer Immunotherapy, please click here. SITC members receive a 20 percent discount on all Certificate in Cancer Immunotherapy modules, so if you haven’t yet, please be sure to join the SITC family to take advantage of this exclusive member benefit.

Mario Sznol, MD
SITC President

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

JITC Letter From the Editor - August 2020

Dear JITC Readers,

Welcome to this latest edition of the JITC digest. The papers highlighted this month offer exciting perspectives on the current state of the immunotherapy field as well as promising future directions for research.
Clinical oncologists can find a comprehensive overview of approved and emerging immunotherapies for multiple myeloma, including some of the new CAR T cell therapies currently in development, in the newest clinical practice guideline from SITC, by Nina Shah et al.
Promising clinical data on the use of checkpoint blockade for prostate cancer is provided in an original research article by Julie N Graff et al. The paper is the first to demonstrate durable responses with PD-1 inhibition in a subset of prostate cancer patients.
The identification of biomarkers to predict response to immunotherapy remains an important and ongoing area of study for our field. Two papers in this month’s digest highlight the key role that tumor metabolism plays in determining outcomes after immunotherapy, offering potential biomarkers for future study.
David Chardin and colleagues identify tumor metabolic parameters as measured by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG PET/CT) that are prognostic and predictive for outcomes after anti-PD-1 therapy for non-small cell lung cancer. Another immunometabolic biomarker is identified by Fangming Liu et al, who identify an association between FABP5-positive tumor infiltrating T cells and improved overall and recurrence-free survival in hepatocellular carcinoma.
New immunotherapeutic targets is another high-priority topic for research, and Marta Trüb and colleagues demonstrate promising in vitro anti-tumor properties with a novel fibroblast activation protein (FAP)-targeted 4-1BB agonist (FAP-4-1BBL).
Finally, do not miss an excellent review by Christopher A Chuckran et al of Neuropilin-1, which acts as a receptor ‘hub’ for sorting signals from diverse ligands to both promote regulatory T cell (Treg) stability in the tumor microenvironment and inhibit anti-tumor CD8+ T cell responses—the latest in the Immune Checkpoints Beyond PD-1 review series.
As always, you can also further your reading with highlights from other journals in JITC’s Reading List, selected this month by Claudia M Palena, PhD, of the NCI.

Best regards,

Pedro J. Romero, MD
Editor-in-Chief, Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer

To view the entire August 2020 JITC Digest, please click here

Monday, August 17, 2020

President's Message - August 2020

Dear Colleagues,

By this time, you are probably already aware that we will hold our society’s 35th Annual Meeting & Pre-Conference Programs (SITC 2020) as a fully virtual event. We’ve made several recent announcements involving SITC 2020, including:
Our preference was to find a way to safely convene in person. However, the coronavirus pandemic is still active, the course of the pandemic over the next several months is difficult to predict, and the safety of our members, their families, and our patients is our highest priority. Therefore, the decision to go virtual became necessary. We understand that a virtual event removes the prospect of the invaluable, sometimes spontaneous in-person conversations that can lead to important insights, collaborations, and for some members, important career opportunities.  But we hope and are working very hard to make the 2020 Virtual Annual Scientific Meeting a truly unique, highly productive and beneficial experience for all of this year’s attendees. And perhaps by going virtual we can expand the opportunity to connect to a much broader group of our members around the world.

To provide researchers with more time to prepare their SITC 2020 abstracts for our reimagined virtual meeting, we will extend the submission deadline for regular and Young Investigator Award abstracts, late-breaking abstract applications and presentation applications for the Immunotherapy Resistances and Failure program until Aug. 25, 2020, at 5 p.m. PDT. This extension provides nearly a month of additional time for colleagues to prepare their work for viewing in the virtual poster hall and potentially as a recorded presentation. Click here to view the updated abstract timeline and related important dates for SITC 2020.

As this is SITC’s 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting, one of the many highlights will be three keynote opening addresses from highly accomplished scientists in our field. I have the privilege to introduce several of the SITC 2020 faculty, including the following keynote presenters:

Richard V. Smalley, MD Memorial Award and Lectureship:
  • Gordon Freeman, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) – “The PD-L1/PD-1 Pathway: Discovery and New Insights”
  • Lieping Chen, MD, PhD (Yale School of Medicine) – “Why Were We Interested in Immunity Within the Tumor Microenvironment in the 1990s?”
  • Arlene Sharpe, MD, PhD (Harvard Medical School) – “Discovery of New IO Targets and Mechanisms Leveraging CRISPR”
 Keynote Address:
  • Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD (Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University) – “Turning Immunologically Quiescent Tumors into Immune Responsive Cancers”
35th Anniversary Keynote Address:
  • Helen E. Heslop, MD (Baylor College of Medicine) – “T cell Therapy of Cancer”

These presentations and many more, including late-breaking research, reflect the very high scientific quality of the SITC 2020 meeting. You can access the meeting without cost if you are an SITC member,  so if you have not yet done so, join the SITC family or renew your membership for 2020 and beyond by  completing the SITC 2020 online registration.

Planning for SITC 2020 consumed much of our leadership’s recent discussions, but we continue to focus on the long-term future of the society. In mid-July, I was honored to welcome a collection of respected SITC member leaders, representing a variety of professional backgrounds and interests, to the annual SITC strategic planning retreat. The meeting was hosted on the Zoom platform to ensure the safety of all participants. This esteemed group engaged in productive discussions that outlined future society outputs for key scientific issues; considered SITC’s approach to future live and virtual educational programs in our new global environment; and addressed ways to increase our society’s commitment to racial and ethnic diversity. As always, I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of our leaders in addressing opportunities and potential problems for our Society.

An important area of SITC strategic focus is policy and advocacy, and these efforts are particularly important now to ensure continued progress of the immunotherapy community through the global pandemic. SITC-drafted text was incorporated into the Fiscal Year 2021 U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Subcommittee Bill regarding annual financial appropriations for the U.S Food and Drug Administration. Thanks to the efforts of our SITC Policy Committees, 2020 marks the third consecutive year SITC was able to place congressional language which communicates SITC member priorities to the FDA. We invite you to learn more about SITC's policy and advocacy efforts here, and view the FY21 FDA appropriations language focused on combination immunotherapies here.

This year has been a particularly difficult year for everyone with new and unexpected challenges. I would like to thank the entire SITC family–my colleagues on the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, SITC committees and task forces, staff and many others–for your continued dedication and unflinching support of our society. It is this collective effort that will ensure our Society and our field of a bright future.


Mario Sznol, MD
SITC President

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

JITC Letter From the Editor - July 2020

Dear JITC Readers,

I am thrilled to share exciting news with you in this latest edition of the JITC digest. This year, JITC increased its impact factor to 9.913, making the journal the highest ranked fully open access immunology journal and in the top 8 percent of all journals in the oncology and immunology categories. The ranking not only reflects the increasing prominence of the cancer immunotherapy field as a whole, but also the outstanding efforts of our JITC editors and expert reviewers, who work tirelessly to ensure that the journal publishes only the top-tier submissions month after month. With a sharp increase in manuscripts submitted to JITC during the last two years, we remain committed to a high standard of timely peer review and to facilitating the publishing of high quality content for our readership.
This month is no exception, with a total of 63 articles publishing in JITC during June. As always, the research spans a wide diversity of topics representing almost every step in the path from bench to bedside. The papers highlighted in this month’s digest include basic research, translational science and human trials.
On the basic science side, Lorena Carmona Rodríguez and colleagues uncover a novel, cell context-specific role for WNT signaling in controlling access to tumors by infiltrating lymphocytes. In another study investigating changes to the tumor microenvironment, Simon P Keam et al demonstrate through NanoString immune gene expression profiling, digital spatial profiling, and high-throughput immune cell multiplex immunohistochemistry analysis on samples from human patients, that high dose-rate brachytherapy converts immunologically cold tumors to hot.
On the therapeutics side, Matteo Libero Baroni et al provide evidence that CD123-directed chimeric antigen receptor T cells are profoundly myeloablative, opening the door to a potential bridge to transplant therapy for acute myeloid leukemia. Victoria A Brentvile and colleagues develop a novel tumor vaccine based on a mixture of three citrullinated peptides that takes advantage of a toll-like receptor agonist adjuvant to dramatically reduce the effective therapeutic dose. Additionally, Adi Reches and colleagues identify a potentially promising new target for checkpoint inhibition in Nectin4, which is a TIGIT ligand with highly restricted expression to tumor cells.
Finally, David S Hong and colleagues demonstrate significant increases in tumor-infiltrating CD3+ and CD8+ T cells in patients with advanced solid tumors after treatment with a small-molecule antagonist of the E-type prostanoid receptor 4 in a first-in-human clinical trial.
I hope you enjoy these articles, and all of the excellent papers published this month in JITC. Also, be sure to peruse this month’s JITC's Reading List for a selection of papers of interest from other journals.

Best regards,

Pedro J. Romero, MD
Editor-in-Chief, Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer

To view the entire July 2020 JITC Digest, please click here

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

President's Message - July 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As I hope many of you saw recently, SITC announced its intentions to transition the upcoming 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting & Pre-Conference Programs (SITC 2020) on Nov. 10–15, 2020, from an in-person conference to a fully virtual event. The decision, made with the full support of the SITC Executive Committee and Annual Meeting organizers, will allow our society to convene safely amid the global coronavirus pandemic while sharing and celebrating the continued progress achieved in the cancer immunotherapy field.

SITC 2020 reimagined as a fully virtual experience will ensure the health and safety of our participants and their patients while providing new, unique opportunities to connect with an expanded global audience. In celebration of our society’s 35th anniversary, we are excited to offer free SITC 2020 registration to all SITC members. Online registration for SITC 2020 reimagined will open in the coming weeks. Join the SITC family or renew your membership today to ensure your eligibility for free SITC 2020 participation. Stay tuned for much more in the coming weeks as we announce new and exciting features of SITC 2020 reimagined as a virtual event.

While the coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected our lives, professionally and personally, it is vital we continue the mission of our great society to improve cancer patient outcomes by advancing the science, development and application of cancer immunology and immunotherapy. One of the means by which SITC strives to achieve this mission is through programs that provide funding and recognize the scientific achievements of our field’s early career scientists. The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted funding for young investigators, and thus, such continued support from SITC is more important than ever. In June, we recognized a record-breaking number of early career scientists as recipients of our society’s 2020 Postdoctoral Cancer Immunotherapy Fellowships and Award.

Thanks to the continued and generous support of our industry partners—Amgen, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, Bristol Myers Squibb, Genentech, Inc. and Merck—SITC was able to award six early career scientists with fellowships, totaling $600,000 in one- and two-year awards. In a new collaboration with NanoString Technologies, SITC was also able to offer an award providing access to the company’s spatial profiling technology to further research.
I would like to congratulate this year’s recipients of the 2020 Postdoctoral Cancer Immunotherapy Fellowships and Award:

  • SITC-Merck Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Fellowship: Joseph Clara, MD – National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • SITC-AstraZeneca Immunotherapy in Lung Cancer Clinical Fellowship: Jacob Kaufman, MD, PhD – Duke University Medical Center
  • SITC-Amgen Cancer Immunotherapy in Hematologic Malignancies Fellowship: Suman Paul, MBBS, PhD – Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • SITC-Bristol Myers Squibb Postdoctoral Cancer Immunotherapy Translational Fellowship: Li Qiang, PhD – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School
  • SITC-NanoString Technologies Spatial Profiling Award: Todd Triplett, PhD – University of Texas Dell Medical School
  • SITC-Genentech Women in Cancer Immunotherapy Fellowship: Natalie Vokes, MD – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • SITC's Holbrook Kohrt, MD, PhD Cancer Immunotherapy Translational Memorial Fellowship (Sponsored by Genentech): Kipp Weiskopf, MD, PhD – Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research 

To learn more about these individuals and their research, please visit our website. Thank you to all of this year’s SITC Fellowships and Award applicants and sponsors! Please look for a host of new funding opportunities in January.

I would also like to congratulate the 2020 National Cancer Institute (NCI) Immunotherapy Fellowship recipient, John Shin, MD, from Mayo Clinic Rochester. Dr. Shin will be exposed to multiple clinical immunotherapeutic approaches and key opinion leaders in the field of cancer immunotherapy at NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. The NCI Immunotherapy Fellowship is co-sponsored by the NCI of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and SITC and made possible in part by an educational grant from EMD Serono.

SITC will honor this year’s awardees, along with many other young investigators, during our awards ceremony at the 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting. We will also recognize an additional 35 early career scientists as part of our society’s Young Investigator Awards. These accolades, which include the highly coveted Presidential Award, reward excellence in SITC Annual Meeting oral abstract and poster presentations. We are also eager to recognize the numerous basic scientists, translational researchers and clinicians working to improve cancer patient outcomes.

As a reminder, regular abstractsYoung Investigator Award abstractslate-breaking abstracts and Immunotherapy Resistance and Failure Pre-Conference Program presentation applications are due by 5 p.m. PDT on Friday, July 31. For a complete listing of SITC 2020 abstract categories, which now includes research on COVID-19 and immunotherapy, please click here.
Finally, I would like to share proudly that the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (JITC) increased its Impact Factor this year to 9.913. This Impact Factor makes JITC the highest ranked fully open access immunology journal and places JITC in top 8 percent of all journals published in the oncology and immunology categories. Congratulations to JITC Editor-in-Chief Pedro Romero, MD, the JITC Editorial Board, its vast collection of reviewers and staff for this honor.

Please consider submitting your research to JITC or becoming a reviewer as the journal furthers its mark as a respected source for research in oncology.


Mario Sznol, MD
SITC President

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

JITC Letter from the Editor - June 2020

Dear JITC Readers,

Welcome to the latest edition of the JITC digest. As we move into the first months of the summer, cancer research programs are cautiously beginning to re-open in cities around the world while at the same time the streets are full of thousands of people protesting against racial injustice. In these tumultuous times, JITC is proud to add to the voices of all those across the globe in strong support of justice and equality, and against racism of any kind. 

We hope that all our JITC readers are staying safe as shelter in place orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic slowly lift and we reaffirm our commitment to publishing the best of immunotherapy research through these tumultuous and uncharted times. 

In this issue we are excited to share an excellent review, two perspectives from SITC and four original research articles, two of which describe important new biomarker approaches for predicting and monitoring therapeutic response and two of which develop strategies to enhance anti-tumor immunity. 

John P Lynes and colleagues provide a timely update on strategies for the identification of predictive immunotherapy biomarkers in the highly heterogeneous central nervous system malignancy glioblastoma along with an overview of challenges for the field in central nervous system disease in, "Biomarkers for immunotherapy for treatment of glioblastoma."

In, "Endogenous TLR2 ligand embedded in the catalytic region of human cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase 1," Seongmin Cho et al. identify a unique TLR agonist embedded within the catalytic region of a human tRNA synthetase enzyme that significantly improved survival when administered with checkpoint inhibitors in mouse models without causing significant systemic toxicity. 

Victor H Engelhard and colleagues developed, performed pre-clinical characterization and evaluated safety and immunogenicity of a novel immunotherapeutic vaccine comprising HLA-restricted phosphorylated peptides in, "MHC-restricted phosphopeptide antigens: preclinical validation and first-in-humans clinical trial in participants with high-risk melanoma." 

On the biomarkers side, Thomas LaSalle and colleagues used a novel PET agent that non-invasively quantifies granzyme B release to measure immune cell activation in tumors during checkpoint inhibitor therapies. Additionally, in an impressive pan-tumor analysis, Jessica Roelands et al. demonstrate that cancer-specific oncogenic gene expression programs may modulate the predictive power of favorable intratumoral immune responses. Don't miss the papers, "Granzyme B PET imaging of immune-mediated tumor killing as a tool for understanding immunotherapy response" and "Oncogenic states dictate the prognostic and predictive connotations of intratumoral immune response." 

JITC also is proud to publish two outstanding papers from SITC, "The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer perspective on regulation of interleukin-6 signaling in COVID-19-related systemic inflammatory response" by Fernanda I Arnaldez et al. and "The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer statement on best practices for multiplex immunohistochemistry (IHC) and immunofluorescence (IF) staining and validation" by Janis M Taube and colleagues. The former provides an overview of immune-modulatory therapies that may be of use for COVID-19 and the latter helps set standards to ensure outputs are robust and comparable across laboratories and platforms. 

Finally, it is with a heavy heart that I share the passing of our colleague Beatrix Kotlan. Among her many amazing contributions to the immunotherapy field, Beatrix was a founding Associate Editor who served six years on the JITC editorial board. She was also a dedicated, enthusiastic reviewer and a tireless advocate for lower-income countries to have access to the tools and knowledge necessary to advance the field. Our thoughts are with her family.

Best regards,

Pedro J. Romero, MD
Editor-in-Chief, Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer

To view the entire June 2020 JITC Digest, please click here