OHSU leadership on stage at AACR

Dozens of OHSU Knight Cancer Institute researchers commanded the spotlight at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Lisa Coussens, Ph.D., who concluded her term as AACR president, led the opening ceremony and gave the presidential address on April 16. Coussens talked about the need for inclusive, global collaboration to accelerate progress in cancer research. She emphasized the importance of diversifying the cancer workforce by increasing representation from underserved communities. Under her leadership, AACR created a high school student summer internship program in collaboration with cancer centers with special emphasis on recruiting students from underrepresented and underserved communities.

On April 17, Coussens took the stage with Monica Bertagnolli, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute, for a fireside chat. They discussed the NCI’s goals for the Cancer Moonshot initiative and the recently released National Cancer Plan.

Coussens also organized a major symposium on pregnancy and cancer, including reproductive rights. Speakers included Brandon Hayes-Lattin, M.D., who focused on helping patients with hematologic malignancies manage issues of fertility preservation and pregnancy.

Teresa Zimmers, Ph.D., presenting at the opening plenary session.

OHSU’s Teresa Zimmers, Ph.D., was one of five experts chosen for the opening plenary session “Advancing the Frontiers of Cancer Science and Medicine.” Zimmers described important new insights into the complexity of cachexia and its impact on cancer outcomes.

“It’s highly likely that existing therapeutics could be repurposed to treat cachexia now,” Zimmers said. “Cancer drives cachexia, but cachexia drives cancer growth, spread, treatment intolerance, and mortality. Cachexia results from specific, targetable mechanisms and, by treating cachexia, we can improve quality of life, length of life, and chance of cure.”

Two early-career scientists at OHSU were honored as NextGen Stars at AACR: Katelyn Byrne, Ph.D., and Megan Ruhland, Ph.D.

Shivaani Kummar, M.D., chaired two sessions, one on harnessing the immune system in the clinic and another on the future of phase 1 clinical trials. Kummar also presented research including phase 1 results with a first-in-class anti-CD200R1 antibody in patients with advanced solid malignancies. In the closing plenary, Kummar and three other national leaders looked back at the meeting’s highlights and discussed what’s next for cancer science and medicine.

Shivaani Kummar, M.D.

In a plenary session chaired by Sanjay Malhotra, Ph.D., five leading experts delved into new concepts in drug discovery, including engineered proteins, antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates, nano-carriers, miRNA delivery, and drugging undruggable targets. Malhotra also presented on drugging GBP1 as a therapeutic strategy for cancer, and investigating the role of Desmocollin-3 and immune infiltrate in bladder cancer.

Among other OHSU leaders at the meeting, Jonathan Brody, Ph.D., chaired a session on innovative therapeutic approaches. He also led a discussion on the importance of the interplay between clinicians, clinician-scientists and basic/translational scientists. Shannon McWeeney, Ph.D., chaired a session on advancing cancer research through an international cancer registry. Amy Moran, Ph.D., chaired a symposium on the biology of sex hormones in mediating cancer therapy response, and she presented her work on androgens and immunotherapy resistance. Rosalie Sears, Ph.D., chaired a symposium on gene regulation and transcription factors in cancer.

More than 30 other OHSU researchers presented work at the meeting. The Knight Cancer Institute also sent a recruiting team to work the exhibit hall and promote career opportunities at OHSU.

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute was well represented at AACR.