The Sentinel


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

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

President's Message - March-April 2020

Dear Colleagues,

The letter below was written before the COVID-19 pandemic transformed our lives. First, I hope all of you and your families are safe. For our members involved in delivery of health care, we are grateful for your courage, sacrifice and dedication to your patients. Many in our society are likely turning their attention to research focused on the COVID pandemic and to care of COVID patients. I am aware that many of you are cooperating with your infectious disease, critical care and pulmonary colleagues to secure the resources required to take care of as many infected patients as possible.

At the urging of two of our past Presidents (Jon Wigginton, MD, and Bernard Fox, PhD), the society has already taken steps to enable our members to exchange information on the pandemic, particularly how it impacts cancer care and patients receiving anti-cancer immunotherapy (see below). SITC members have substantial expertise in immunology and clinical trial methodology, and this experience in cancer could help our colleagues to reduce the overall impact of the pandemic. For example, translational studies to define the immunologic responses to the virus and identify abnormal/ineffective responses that fail to clear virus and/or produce immune-mediated pathology could lead to novel therapeutics. Our members are very familiar with the urgent need to find therapies for life-threatening diseases and can advocate to make potentially life-saving medications available to patients. At the same time, we can also advocate for developing therapies based on sound scientific evidence produced in high quality clinical research; in our own field, we are keenly aware of potentially misleading conclusions from anecdotal reports, uncontrolled trials and small randomized studies of therapeutic agents. We live in a time of amazing science, and I feel confident that science will rapidly produce effective diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for this pandemic and the next pandemic we will face in the future.

So, on a note of optimism, we are proceeding with plans for a live Annual Meeting this year. In November, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) will welcome thousands of our most dedicated and accomplished basic scientists, translational researchers, clinicians and others to our 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting & Pre-Conference Programs (SITC 2020). SITC member registration is officially open. In keeping with our commitment to promote early career development and in celebration of the society's 35th anniversary, all current student members of SITC will receive free registration to the 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting.

Please take note that SITC 2020 will take place on new days this year (Tuesday, Nov. 10–Sunday, Nov. 15), and we will return to the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

As in past years, the 2020 Annual Meeting will feature several keynote presentations delivered by investigators whose work opened new areas of investigation and transformed our field. Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD (Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins), will deliver her keynote address titled, Turning Immunologically Quiescent Tumors into Immune Responsive Cancers. And commemorating our society's 35th anniversary, Helen E. Heslop, MD (Baylor College of Medicine), will describe the current state of T-cell Therapy of Cancer in her keynote address.

We are also very much looking forward to the Richard V. Smalley, MD, Memorial Award and Lectureship, our society's highest award and named in honor of the SITC charter member. This fall, we honor three researchers whose contributions to the area of immune checkpoint inhibitors fundamentally changed the treatment of cancer: Lieping Chen, MD, PhD (Yale School of Medicine), Gordon Freeman, MD, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), and Arlene Sharpe, MD, PhD (Harvard Medical School). I would like to thank this year's keynote speakers for sharing their expertise with SITC 2020 attendees and for their continued contributions in the field.

SITC 2020 will again include workshops and programs for an intense focus on specific scientific topics and for broader educational objectives. Our annual workshop, a pre-conference program, will delve more deeply into the rapidly expanding area of Engineering Immune Cells for Cancer Therapy. This year's industry program will address Immunotherapy Resistance and Failure for immune checkpoint inhibitors. Applications for consideration to present your research during the Immunotherapy Resistance and Failure Pre-Conference Program are also open, and are due on July 31, 2020, at 5 p.m. PDT. The Primer on Tumor Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy™ is a critical and timely educational program covering the basic principles and a variety of techniques within tumor immunology and immunotherapy. New for this year, the Primer will also touch on emerging therapies and technologies in the field.

In our society's continued effort to provide early career investigators with meaningful professional development and networking opportunities, SITC will again host a workshop on building skills to write successful grants; a Meet-the-Expert Lunch for attendees to connect with leaders in the field in a small group setting; and an evening early career scientist networking event. SITC's Career Connections program will return for a second year and will include a networking reception, on-site job board and other opportunities for attendees to connect directly (and don't forget to peruse our Online Job Board, available year-round). Further, SITC, through support from the Forward Fund, will present 35 travel awards to young investigators this year, recognizing their research achievements. The early career scientists will be honored during the Award Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 14. I will do my best to pronounce all the names correctly this year.

Please be sure to attend the 35th Anniversary Reception in celebration of the society's special anniversary year, which will take place the evening of Saturday, Nov. 14, at the National Museum of American History. This will be an amazing night of Washington D.C. fun and frolic and you will be able to celebrate 35 years of immense dedication to discovery and application of cancer immunotherapy with your colleagues in an impressive museum, and the night will include heavy hors d'oeuvres, drinks and dancing. Purchase your tickets through your SITC 2020 registration.

As outstanding research is a perennial highlight at our Annual Meeting, we hope you'll submit your work for consideration as an oral or poster abstract presentation. Submissions are now open for regular abstract and late-breaking abstract applications.

In celebration of our 35th anniversary, SITC will offer 35 Young Investigator Awards, all recognizing excellence in novel research and providing young investigators with the experience necessary for successful careers. SITC is also accepting research applications on immune checkpoint inhibitor resistance or failure for the opportunity to present during SITC 2020's Immunotherapy Resistance and Failure Pre-Conference Program.

We've covered only a small portion of the agenda that will make SITC 2020 another remarkable Annual Meeting. I will continue to provide updates about programing as the year progresses. Meanwhile, for those who have not yet signed up for a SITC membership in 2020, please do so now to receive access to the exclusive SITC 2020 members-only registration period and access to housing. Public registration opens on April 20. Click here to learn more about SITC 2020 registration or continue reading this month's edition of the Immune Monitor.

I look forward to seeing in National Harbor this Nov. 10–15 for SITC 2020.

Mario Sznol, MD
SITC President