CDI Immunology Symposium: Treatments and Trials of the Future Discussed   

CDI Immunology Symposium: Treatments and Trials of the Future Discussed

Cancer-fighting therapies, trials, and molecular strategies of the future were the subject of the first-annual Applied Immunological Research Symposium at the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) on May 30.

Approximately 75 researchers at the vanguard of immune system discoveries attended. The event was organized by the CDI’s Institute for Immunologic Intervention (3i), and featured presentations not only from the 3i, but also John Theurer Cancer Center, as well as Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This event was an excellent exchange of immunology answers to this point - and the questions to the next evolution of understanding,” said David Perlin, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer and executive vice president of the CDI. “The CDI was built for this kind of collaboration in the name of science.”

The keynote “CAR T cell updates in cancer and beyond” was delivered by Carl June, M.D., Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the Perelman School of Medicine, and director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania. The wide-ranging talk outlined the development of immunotherapies over the last three decades - and the exciting prospects for the future. Some in the audience called June’s presentation a “tour-de-force.”

Talks were also delivered by Binfeng Lu, Ph.D., the director of the 3i; Ivan Maillard, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, the University of Pennsylvania; Martin Gutierrez, M.D., Director, Drug Discovery / Phase I Program, HMH John Theurer Cancer Center; Michael Atkins, M.D., FAIO, FASCO, deputy director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and Wiulliam M. Scholl Professor and vice chair of the Department of Oncology; Jianhua Yu, Ph.D., professor and founding director of the Natural Killer (NK) Cell Research Program at Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope; Pawel Kalinski, M.D, Ph.D., Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s chair of the Department of Immunology, professor of Oncology, and chief of Translational Immuno-Oncology.

Among the posters displayed:

  • Five abstracts led by Yi Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., the 3i’s co-director. One of these showed pharmacological inhibition of CDK9 in lymphoma cells sensitizes them to CAR T cells’ cytotoxicity, thereby boosting the effectiveness of CAR T cell therapies in preclinical experimental models.
  • “Quantification of Cancer Cell Growth Dynamics and Tumor Evolution using Bioreactor and Barcoding Technology” by the CDI’s Alvin P. Makohon-Moore, Ph.D., and colleagues, presented the laboratory’s insights in using experimental evolution to define the dynamics of cancer.
  • “Novel Use of Gamma Secretase Inhibition in Priming Acute Myeloid Leukemia Cells for BCMA-directed Immunotherapy” paired Johannes Zakrzewksi, M.D., a CDI principal investigator and clinician, with two students from the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, Zephyr Hameem and Alexander Vallone. The findings showed that inhibiting gamma secretase like that done in multiple myeloma could also optimize certain immunotherapies in treatment of acute myeloid leukemia.
  • A poster brought together three of the 3i’s immunologists - Lu, Zhang, and Hai-Hui “Howard” Xue, Ph.D., another CDI principal investigator - to present the creation of the CDI’s Clinical Immunology Core. Entitled “Approaches Toward Understanding Immune Responses in Clinical Disease Context,” it enumerates the three “missions” of their program.

“Through these collaborative efforts, we can accelerate the pace of discovery and ensure that the benefits of our research reach cancer patients,” said Lu.

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