The Sentinel


Monday, January 25, 2021

President's Message - January 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New Year to all of you in the SITC family. This is my first message coming to you as SITC President and I find myself eager to begin as I assume a new role and our society continues to reach new heights. I would like to thank my friend and colleague Mario Sznol, MD, and all of the SITC Presidents before me, who helped SITC achieve such success to date, and I plan to continue such momentum in the coming two years.

As you know, we’ve all experienced many challenges in the past year. COVID-19 has upended all facets of our lives, but such conflict also pushed us to evolve and innovate in ways that allowed us to virtually congregate and collaborate to keep our society, and the greater cancer immunotherapy field moving forward.

One of the truly amazing things of this past year is, the solution to overcoming the pandemic through a safe and effective vaccine has been made possible as the result of advances in immunology. As the initial doses of the first approved vaccine were delivered to members of the general public in December, and as I recently received the vaccine as well, my heart swelled with pride knowing it was a cancer research company specializing in immunotherapies (BioNTech) that played such a crucial role in the development of this life-saving technology. Our field stands on the shoulders of countless giants in tumor immunology that have made today’s current state of care possible, and I know the future is bright as we continue our work to save and prolong the lives of all of our patients.

The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us all that regardless of how close-knit our local professional networks can be, we ultimately are all part of a larger, globally diverse field of cancer researchers and clinicians. This is part of the reason why SITC prioritized issuing a statement of support on FDA-authorized SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in December. As the statement notes, our society encourages all cancer patients receiving approved or investigational immunotherapy as part of their treatment regimen, either as standard of care or as part of a clinical trial and without a general contraindication to vaccination, to receive the vaccine when made available to them. The statement, published on Dec. 23, 2020, was done so by SITC leaders based on the known data at the time, and we will continue to monitor the field for any new information that could affect or further inform the society’s stance.

In 2020, our membership increased to more than 4,600 cancer immunotherapy professionals representing over 60 countries around the world. One of the key goals in our society’s strategic plan is to advance the science and application of cancer immunotherapy worldwide. As the SITC footprint grows with each passing year, it is incumbent upon our society to use this increased influence to broker new collaborations among scientific and governmental agencies all in an effort to improve patient access to new and promising therapies.

In December, SITC hosted the virtual workshop, Global Access to Cancer Immunotherapy: Closing the Gaps. Organized through the guidance and strategic vision of the SITC Global Access and Impact Committee, which is chaired by David Kaufman, MD, PhD, this workshop connected more than 60 stakeholders from around the world to discuss and define minimal infrastructure requirements for safe and effective IO administration around the world. Congruent with SITC’s mission to ensure that all immunotherapy advancements are accessible to the general public, enduring materials from this workshop are now available for your review.

Thank you to the countless individuals who helped make the past year a success for SITC, despite such difficult circumstances. I greatly look forward to working with so many SITC leaders and volunteers in the coming months as we continue our mission of improving cancer patient outcomes through immunotherapy. 



Patrick Hwu, MD

SITC President

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Letter From the Editor- January

Dear JITC Readers,

Happy new year and welcome to the first JITC digest of 2021. Even against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic, last year was a banner year for immuno-oncology, with immunotherapy becoming the standard of care in more and more disease settings. I look ahead to 2021 with optimism that the immunotherapy field will continue apace—providing lifesaving options for patients with cancer and advancing our understanding of the basic immunological mechanisms of tumor control.
During the month of December, four new papers from the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) were published in JITC, including the clinical practice guideline on immune effector cell-related adverse events, which will be of great value to the hematology and oncology communities. The journal is proud to support the society’s goal of scientific exchange by publishing these excellent peer-reviewed papers among the top-tier research that appears in JITC.
The original research articles highlighted in this month’s digest all provide new insight into one of the most challenging questions in our field: Why does checkpoint inhibition induce deep and durable responses in some, but not all, tumors?
Joshua R Veatch and colleagues develop an elegant enrichment and deep-sequencing strategy to show that neoantigen-responsive T cells were associated with tumor control in one patient with melanoma—shining light on a relatively minor contribution of self-antigen reactive T cells.
Expanding our understanding of potential immune checkpoints beyond PD-1 in virus-associated solid tumors, Isobel Okoye et al identify upregulation of the TIM-3 ligand galectin-9 as a marker of functional exhaustion and impaired T cell and natural killer NK cell responses.
The exhaustion phenotypes of T cells from primary and metastatic sites in ovarian cancers are clearly delineated by Galam Leem and colleagues, identifying 4-1BB costimulation as a potential means to reinvigorate defective immune responses in this setting.
Finally, in a provocative rebuke of the so-called “obesity paradox,” Shannon K Boi et al show that high body mass index is associated with worse outcomes with PD-1 inhibition for renal cell carcinoma in the real-world setting, and use mouse models to provide mechanistic insight into a role for IL-1 beta in diminished responses to therapy.
With best wishes for the coming year,

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

To view the entire January 2021 JITC Digest, please click here