The Sentinel


Thursday, May 31, 2018

President's Message – June 2018

Dear Colleagues,

As summer begins, I am happy to share news about a number of SITC initiatives that our members are involved in, addressing important aspects of our field.

First, I would like to congratulate members of the SITC Immunoscore Validation Project – whose Steering Committee is Chaired by Past SITC President Bernard A. Fox, PhD – on the recent publication of its study's findings in The Lancet. Involving tissues banked from more than 3,500 patients and more than a dozen SITC member volunteers across 13 countries, the study showed that the Immunoscore measures of stage I-III colon cancer patients positively correlated with survival and time to recurrence. I highly recommend that you read this important publication.

Second, I would like to commend the work of the SITC Cancer Immune Responsiveness Task Force and Immune Biomarkers Committee for their effort in hosting a pair of SITC workshops earlier this month in San Francisco. More than 200 attendees contributed to discussion around the current major questions in our field which will lead directly to new initiatives for the society in these areas. Attendees also developed new collaborations to move the field forward. Stay tuned as these new initiatives are announced, and materials from these workshops become available to members and the general public later this month.

Third, I want to share the news that our highly anticipated Cancer Immunotherapy Guidelines for cutaneous melanoma update published on Wednesday! First published in 2013, these clinical guidelines serve to educate a clinical audience on a disease state that was among the first to achieve significant progress via cancer immunotherapy for patients. Thank you to the Cancer Immunotherapy Guidelines Cutaneous Melanoma Subcommittee for your major commitment to this effort! This melanoma manuscript is the first in our society's series of Cancer Immunotherapy Guidelines to receive an update. New guidelines in non-small cell lung cancer and head and neck cancers will publish this year in our society's Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (JITC).

Another way that SITC seeks to improve our field's future is through the SITC Sparkathon. Young investigators can apply now to participate in the SITC Sparkathon Class of 2018. This team science opportunity, which will last 12-18 months, forges new collaborations among the field's brightest early career scientists as they seek to solve an existing obstacle. These scientists will receive valuable professional development from top business coaches and SITC leadership. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday, June 18.

The inaugural SITC Sparkathon Class of 2017, teams TimIOs and METIOR Incubator, will present their projects during the 33rd Annual Meeting this November.

Very soon, our society members will elect a new Vice President in the upcoming annual election. From June 14–28, the 2018 SITC Election will include the Vice President position and three At-Large Director openings on the Board of Directors. Learn more about this year's candidates, who are also listed below, and please remember to vote (online voting begins June 14).

Finally, I am happy to share that current registration numbers confirm our expectations that SITC 2018 will be our society's most highly attended yet! Register now to attend SITC 2018 and secure your housing. Also, don't forget the deadline to submit regular abstracts, late-breaking abstract applications or applications to the Immune Escape program is 5 p.m. PDT on Aug. 1.

I'm looking forward to seeing you all at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. this November!


Lisa H. Butterfield, PhD
SITC President

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The METIOR Incubator and Educating the Next Generation of Immuno-Oncology Experts

by Saman Maleki, PhD

In August 2017, SITC brought together a group of 29 young researchers and physicians, from across the world, that were involved in various aspects of immunotherapy research to compete in a bold new program called “Sparkathon.” These people were divided into three teams and tasked to work together to develop a solution tackling the most pressing hurdles facing the fast-growing field of cancer immunotherapy. Each team was assigned a mentor with extensive science and business background and teams formulated their solutions to a business deck and pitched it to a group of SITC leaders, academics, and industry experts.

One of the teams set to address the educational challenge facing early-career researchers ­– from any background/sector – who want to enter the field of Immuno-Oncology. This novel educational program is named Mentoring for Early Translational Immuno-Oncology Researchers (METIOR) incubator. It brings together researchers from various sectors and backgrounds and educates them about Immuno-Oncology while developing a team-based multi-institutional project under the mentorship of immunotherapy experts from academia and industry. The METIOR incubator received $75,000 in seed funding from SITC to assist the establishment of their unique educational program. 

METIOR incubator selected ten participants from a pool of highly qualified applicants with various backgrounds in cancer research and assigned them into two teams: 1) team Checkpoints and 2) team CAR T-cell. Each team is currently working on two different projects that is directly linked to cancer immunotherapy. Participants met each other and their mentors at the first METIOR retreat at The University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) in March 2018. After two intense days of mentored brainstorming and project development, each team received $20,000 in seed money to work on their respective projects.

Team checkpoint seeks to identify biomarkers that are associated with the activity of endogenous retroviruses with double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) in ovarian cancer that might sensitize these tumors to checkpoint inhibitors.

Team CAR T-cell aims to build a centralized information platform (Virtual Immune-oncology Tissue Consortium, VITC) comprising of reference to clinical and pre-clinical samples with a focus on immunotherapy. This platform will be the first of its kind to efficiently consolidate immunotherapy resources across institutions into a searchable, interactive scientific network accessible to all researchers worldwide.

Teams have monthly teleconference meeting with their mentors and will meet again, in person, with their mentors in early September in London, Ontario for the second METIOR Incubator retreat. They will work on consolidating their ideas and preliminary results to shape a joint grant application with the goal of seeking major peer-reviewed funding. The last METIOR Incubator retreat would be at the SITC 33rd Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in November, where each team will present their progresses during the noon hour on Friday (TimIOs) and Saturday (METIOR). For a complete look at the Annual Meet schedule, click here.

Author wished to thank Ms. Alexandra Cadena and Dr. Sebastiano Battaglia for their proofreading of this article.