The Sentinel

THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF THE SOCIETY FOR IMMUNOTHERAPY OF CANCER (SITC).

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.

Sincerely,
















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

Monday, June 1, 2020

President's Message - June 2020


Dear Colleagues,

While the global coronavirus pandemic has held our attention since March, this edition of the President’s Message will focus on the greater mission that brings us all together.

June is Cancer Immunotherapy Awareness Month™, and so, first and most important, I would like to thank our members for the countless ways you contribute to advancing and delivery of cancer immunotherapy. Originally founded in 1984 as the Society for Biological Therapy by 40 charter members, SITC has proudly grown to more than 3,000 members representing 48 countries around the globe. Such growth could not have been possible if it were not for the sound, strategic leadership of my predecessors, who maintained their strong belief in this field despite substantial skepticism in other parts of the scientific community and the limited success of earlier therapies. Therefore, with the opportunity presented by Cancer Immunotherapy Month™, I would like to acknowledge all of SITC’s Past Presidents for their guidance, expertise and their continued contributions to our society.

This month, SITC will call attention to the many ways our society, through the contributions and dedication of its members, are positively affecting the field of cancer immunotherapy. On our website and social media channels, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, SITC will feature a different program, resource or SITC initiative each day of the month. Further, we will celebrate and honor the scientists, clinicians and many others in the field by wearing white on Friday, June 12. You can download SITC’s 2020 “Why I Wear White” flyer, take a selfie with a decorated flyer, and post it to social media. And don’t forget to tag SITC!

SITC staff and meeting organizers continue preparing for our society’s upcoming 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting (Nov. 10–15 in National Harbor, Md.). We look forward to seeing all of you there and I encourage you to register for what will be another outstanding meeting. We are monitoring world events closely and continue to place the safety of our members as our top priority. Please also note that enduring materials from the 34th Annual Meeting & Pre-Conference Programs (SITC 2019) are now available by open access to the general public. To access these and numerous other quality resources published from past SITC meetings, please visit the SITC Resource Library.

Finally, I want to bring to your attention again the remarkable progress and success of the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (JITC), our society’s official open access journal. JITC received its first impact factor just two years ago, ranking it as one of the top cancer immunotherapy journals, and is currently receiving a record number of submissions. JITC will now also offer continuing medical education (CME) credits for its reviewers. Continue reading this month’s edition of the Immune Monitor to learn more about this valuable new feature from JITC.

I wish you all a happy and safe beginning to summer.

Sincerely,
















Mario Sznol, MD
SITC President

Monday, May 18, 2020

JITC Letter from the Editor - May 2020


Dear JITC Readers,

Welcome to the May edition of the JITC digest—perhaps you share the sentiment that the month of April seemed exceptionally short. Like every other aspect of life, the journal is still adapting to the ‘new normal’ imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and we are exceptionally grateful to the editors and reviewers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to enable JITC to continue to publish top-quality immunotherapy research even during these exceptional times.

SITC is proud to stand alongside and support our colleagues on the frontlines of the pandemic, and you can read the society editorial advocating for expanded to IL-6-targeting therapies for COVID-19 in the April issue of JITC.

You may notice that the digest is extra-long this month, featuring four original research articles, two reviews and the aforementioned editorial. It is a testament to the dedication of our immunotherapy community, and we’re excited to share these articles with you, our readers.

April saw two reviews publish that are part of the ongoing JITC "Immune Checkpoints Beyond PD-1" review series. Be sure to read a thought-provoking discussion of the increasing reliance on non-conventional trial protocols in immune-oncology by Luca Mazarella et al. as well as fascinating overview of some potential unusual suspects for checkpoint blockade in the innate cells that function to initiate and guide T cell activity from Carla V Rothlin and Sourav Ghosh.

The original research articles in this month’s digest provide important insight into responses to immunotherapy in real-world patients both in terms of basic tumor immunology and evaluable clinical outcomes.

On the clinical side, John Walker and colleagues describe efficacy and safety outcomes from the largest expanded access program to date and the only for an immune checkpoint inhibitor for metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma, including in immunocompromised patients who were excluded from trials. Additionally, Yukihiro Umeda et al. leverage integrated FDG-PET/MRI-based to predict PFS in nivolumab-treated non-small cell lung cancer based on scans after the first dose.

Delving into immunological responses, Houssein Abdul Sater et al. demonstrate that the therapeutic prostate cancer vaccine PROSTVAC induces systemic immune responses and corresponding increases in lymphocyte infiltration around the tumor despite failing to demonstrate survival benefits in randomized trials. Finally, Tatsuya Yoshida and colleagues provide mechanistic underpinnings behind the link with high C-reactive protein (CRP) and poor outcomes through a variety of in vitro assays showing that CRP inhibits T cell proliferation and effector function as well as dendritic cell phenotypes.
Best regards,

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

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

Monday, May 4, 2020

President's Message - May 2020

Dear Colleagues,

The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is evolving rapidly and many questions remain unanswered. The pandemic has added a great level of uncertainty to our lives and understandably for the Society’s plans and activities for at least the next several months. Nevertheless, we are actively adapting to new realities, so we can continue our basic mission to improve outcomes for cancer patients by advancing the science, development and application of cancer immunology and immunotherapy.

From witnessing events at my own institution and speaking to colleagues around the world, the pandemic has disrupted or completely halted lab work for many and is significantly affecting the day-to-day management of patient care in many of our institutions. On behalf of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), I would like to thank the countless health care workers and researchers working around the clock to overcome this pandemic.


SITC members in the nearly 50 countries where our membership extends are playing important and active roles in the response to COVID-19, lending their expertise in clinical care, clinical trial methodology and immunology.  SITC as an organization is using its comprehensive professional network and infrastructure to facilitate information exchange, particularly as it relates to the impact of COVID-19 on delivery of cancer immunotherapy and the use of immune modulators to treat COVID-19 patients. The importance of cancer research has not diminished, and we continue to advocate for our field.


In March, SITC launched a pair of open-to-the-public online communities focused solely on the coronavirus. Members and nonmembers can participate in online discussions of patient management and care as it relates to COVID-19 and considerations for basic and translational research. Access to the forums is available through With a free SITC CONNECT loginPlease consider sharing your expertise and lessons learned involving COVID-19 within these forums.


Based on preliminary observations from non-randomized clinical data, SITC recently published a statement calling for expanded access to anti-IL-6/IL-6R therapies for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (JITC). The statement was co-authored by several of our colleagues, and encourages the pharmaceutical industry, health authorities and institutional IRBs to work creatively and collaboratively to expand access to anti-IL-6 therapies for critically ill patients with COVID-19, while waiting for results from controlled randomized trials. SITC also produced an additional publication titled, “The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Perspective on Regulation of Interleukin 6 Signaling in COVID-19-related Systemic Inflammatory Response.” The analysis reviews additional investigational therapies that could be explored as approaches to reduce the severe and damaging inflammatory response observed during COVID-19 infection.


One of the key outstanding questions for many of our clinicians is the impact of PD-1/PD-L1 blocking antibodies on the course of COVID-19 infection. At this time, there are no clear data which indicate changes to the risk-benefit ratio of immune checkpoint inhibitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are both theoretical increased risks (for example, hyperinflammation during infection) and potential benefits (improved clearance of the virus and lower morbidity/mortality). A summary of considerations was shared with SITC by colleagues at Genentech-Roche and has been posted here for your review.


To access all of the COVID-19-related resources from our society, and those from other reputable sources, please visit SITC’s COVID-19 resources webpage to track the latest news, participate in online discussions and more.


SITC leadership remain as committed as ever to achieving our society’s strategic goals. This is why I ask that if you have ever considered joining the SITC family (or if you have not yet renewed your membership for 2020), please do so now. COVID-19 is affecting our organization in many ways, and I know SITC and its members will come out of this stronger than ever.  We greatly appreciate your commitment to our society and the support your membership provides to SITC in these difficult times.


As part of the benefits of a membership, SITC recently made available to its members free access to enduring materials from the Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School, hosted this past January in Houston. The program, in its second year, provided attendees with a deep understanding of the core principles of tumor immunology and cancer immunotherapy and examined developing areas in the field. SITC also provides free access to dozens of online courses for patients, clinicians and researchers. Please visit SITC Cancer Immunotherapy connectED, our society’s online education portal, to engage with the society and continue learning from the comforts of your home.


Finally, SITC will soon commence its 2020 election to choose the future leaders of our society. Beginning May 6–20, SITC regular and emeritus members current in their dues will cast their votes for our next Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer and three At-Large Directors. I would like to thank this year’s candidates and those completing their terms later this year (including Secretary/Treasurer Kim A. Margolin, MD; as well as At-Large Directors Paolo Antonio Ascierto, MD; David Kaufman, MD, PhD; and Douglas G. McNeel, MD, PhD). SITC’s future is bright and in good hands with my colleague and friend, Patrick Hwu, MD, set to assume role of SITC President in January. Continue reading this month’s Immune Monitor for a complete listing of the 2020 SITC Election candidates.


Thank you all for the many ways you are positively affecting patient outcomes during these uncertain times. I wish you the best of health and happiness and look forward to seeing you at a future SITC program.


Sincerely,





















Mario Sznol, MD
SITC President

Friday, April 17, 2020

JITC Letter from the Editor - April 2020


Dear JITC Readers,

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge almost all aspects of daily life, JITC remains unwavering in our commitment to publishing the very best that the immunotherapy field has to offer. Although SARS-CoV-2 is radically changing how we as a community care for our patients and conduct our research, you can count on JITC as a constant source for new findings and important insights from across the spectrum of immuno-oncology. 

This month, the JITC digest offers several papers that develop intriguing strategies to boost antitumor immune responses. Jahangir Ahmed and colleagues engineered a replication-competent oncolytic vaccinia virus that delivers IL-12 to the tumor microenvironment, prolonging survival and controlling lung metastases when administered as an adjuvant to surgical excision in mouse models. Modulation of the tumor microenvironment also synergized with checkpoint blockade in a paper by Lucas A. Horn et al., where combined inhibition of TGF-beta and IL-8 signaling attenuated epithelial to mesenchymal transition in models of both breast and lung cancer. Additionally, Yong Li and colleagues revealed a key role in signaling through the innate immune danger-recognition sensor RIG-I in the development of interferon resistance in melanoma tumor-regenerating cells, identifying STAT3 as a potential therapeutic target. 

Also this month, in a paper that will surely prove reassuring, Nicholas Bevins and colleagues rigorously analyzed the impact of different methods of calculating tumor mutational burden and found good correlation between approaches. 

Finally, be sure not to miss an outstanding review by Lorenzo Galluzzi et al. that delivers a thorough overview of immunologic cell death with detailed discussions of the biological mechanisms leading to the establishment of immunologic memory, the available assays to measure key phenomena, and the hurdles to overcome for translation into clinical benefit. 
Best regards,

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

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