Drug Resistance, Targeted Cell Therapies Among Cancer Conference Talks

UCSF Experts Selected as Academy Fellows for Groundbreaking Cancer Research

Targeted immunotherapy agents, the race to beat KRAS, and combatting drug resistance are among the topics that will be presented by leading cancer researchers from UC San Francisco at this year’s annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) conference, held April 14-19, 2023, in Orlando.

The theme of this year’s conference, “Advancing the Frontiers of Cancer Science and Medicine,” will showcase the latest advances in the etiology, biology, prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer as well as state-of-the-art concepts and technologies shaping cancer research today. The gathering will bring together scientists, clinicians, health care professionals, survivors, patients and cancer advocates.

This year’s program features transformative research by many experts from the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Here are some highlights:

Leading UCSF Presentations (All times Eastern)

Press Conference: Sunday, April 16, 11 a.m.

Clinical Trials Plenary Session: Sunday, April 16, 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

R. Kate Kelley, MD, a gastrointestinal oncologist and UCSF professor of Medicine, will take part in AACR’s press program highlighting her study “CT008-Pembrolizumab (pembro) in combination with gemcitabine and cisplatin (gem/cis) for advanced biliary tract cancer (BTC): Phase 3 KEYNOTE-966 study.” She will also present her findings from 4:30 - 4:45 p.m. as part of clinical trials plenary session CTPL02 - Hope for Rare Cancers: Novel Targeted and Immunotherapy Agents. The KEYNOTE-966 is a phase 3 trial in biliary tract cancers (uncommon, poor-prognosis cancers with limited treatment options that are rising in incidence worldwide) which showed significant improvement in overall survival with addition of pembrolizumab to standard chemotherapy, compared to standard chemo alone.

Saturday, April 15, 4:15 - 6:15 p.m.

Plenary Session

Frank McCormick, MD, FRS, David A. Wood Distinguished Professorship of Tumor Biology and Cancer Research at UCSF, will present “The Race to Kill RAS” from 4:19 - 4:46 p.m. during plenary session PL01 - Beating KRAS: A 30-Year Overnight Sensation. The KRAS oncogene, which is mutated in approximately 25% of human cancers, has been the target of drug development since its discovery four decades ago. In recent years, scientists have made groundbreaking advances in targeting what was long considered an undruggable target. In this plenary session, McCormick is among a distinguished panel of speakers discussing the current state of preclinical and clinical research into the KRAS oncogene, existing challenges, and the future of this critical area of cancer research.

Sunday, April 16, 6 - 8 p.m.

Town Meeting - Pediatric Cancer

Alejandro Sweet-Cordero, MD, UCSF chief of pediatric oncology, will present “PCWG Working Group Overview” from 6:30 - 6:40 p.m. during a pediatric cancer town hall meeting, SESSION TM05 - Cell-of-Origin and Tumor Heterogeneity in Childhood Cancers: A Pediatric Cancer Working Group Town Hall Meeting.

Monday, April 17, 2:30 - 4 p.m.

Major Symposium – Pediatric Cancer

Sweet-Cordero will also serve as chairman for the pediatric cancer symposium DC11 - Using Real World Evidence to Advance Pediatric Cancer Drug Development and deliver the chairperson presentation from 2:40 - 2:50 p.m. The session will focus on drug development, bioinformatics, computational and systems biology, and convergent science in pediatric cancer.

Tuesday, April 18, 10:15 - 11:45 a.m.

Major Symposium

Trever G. Bivona, MD, PhD, thoracic medical oncologist and UCSF professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, will present “Therapy-induced stress adaptations driving tumor evolution during molecular therapy in human NSCLC” from 11:20 - 11:35 a.m. during the symposium SY03 - Stress, Stemness, and Drug Resistance. The session covers novel technology to deeply understand developmental states of tumor cells/cancer stem cells at the single cell level, which can be used to predict clinical outcomes and new therapeutic targets. The session will also include recent findings uncovering multifaceted molecular programs and adaptations that are induced by therapy across the tumor and tumor-tumor microenvironment ecosystem, as well as a discussion of next-generation therapeutic strategies for NSCLC.

Bivona will also serve as chairperson for the clinical trials mini-symposium, CTMS02 - Targeting the KRAS Pathway in the Clinic, on April 17, from 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 18, 12:30 - 2 p.m.

Major Symposium

Julia Carnevale, MD, UCSF assistant professor of medicine, will present her study, “CRISPR-based engineering of key gene targets to enhance T-cell therapies,” from 1 - 1:20 p.m. during symposium SY18 - Dharma Master Jiantai Symposium in Targeted Therapy: Cellular Therapies for Cancer.

T-cell-based immunotherapies have entered the standard of care for B-lymphoid malignancies and are now showing encouraging signs of efficacy across a diverse range of human solid cancers. In this session, Carnevale and two other speakers will describe emerging strategies to overcome some of the challenges using TCRs, CARs, and TIL.

Wednesday, April 19, 7 - 7:45 a.m.

Franklin W. Huang, MD, PhD, medical oncologist and UCSF associate professor of medicine and principal investigator, SFVA/UCSF Precision Oncology Center of Excellence, is the featured speaker at the “Meet-the-Expert Session” Session ME44 - Utilizing Genomic Technologies to Study Prostate Cancer and Prostate Cancer Disparities.”

Wednesday, April 19, 10:15 - 11:45 a.m.

Major Symposium

Kole Roybal, PhD, UCSF associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology, will present “Towards the development of synthetic immunity to cancer” from 10:20 - 10:40 a.m. during the symposium SY19 - Engineered T Cells for Solid Tumors. This session will focus on preclinical and clinical gene-engineering strategies to enhance cellular therapy against solid cancers. This includes presentations on the use of synthetic biology to endow T cells with novel receptors and signaling circuits that improve their targeting and control against immunotherapy-refractory solid tumors; the longitudinal characterization of neoantigen-reactive T-cell responses in patients treated with immune-checkpoint blockade therapy and the isolation of their T-cell receptors (TCRs) for potential therapy; and the use of TCR-gene therapy targeting driver mutations in patients with metastatic gastrointestinal cancer.

Educational Sessions 

Friday, April 14, 4:45 - 6:15 p.m.

UCSF Epidemiologist Scarlett Gomez, PhD, MPH, will serve as chairperson, author and presenter for Session ED014 - Next Generation Cancer Epidemiologic Cohorts, which will focus on large-scale cancer epidemiologic cohorts, key contributions of extant cancer epidemiologic cohorts, existing gaps and needs, and opportunities for next generation cohorts for addressing understudied populations and emerging disparities. Gomez will present “Next generation cancer epidemiologic cohorts: Gaps and opportunities” from 4:46 - 5:06 p.m. during the session.

Saturday, April 15, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Educational Session

Valerie Weaver, PhD, UCSF professor of surgery, will present “Dynamic interplay between cellular and non-cellular tissue stroma, tissue tension and tumor progression” from 10:21 - 10:41 a.m. during the educational session ED020 - It’s More than the ECM: Physical Oncology. This session will include an overview of changes in the extracellular matrix during cancer progression, and what is known about how these changes impact tumor phenotype, proliferation, and invasion. There will also be discussion about the emerging understanding of how the interplay between the extracellular matrix, stromal cells, and immune cells regulates cancer progression. The session will then focus on the impact of changes in ECM structure and mechanics on T-cell proliferation, migration, and function. Finally, emerging areas and outstanding questions for the field will be identified and discussed.

UCSF Honors and Awards

Laura Esserman, MD, MBA, and Kevan Shokat, PhD, have been elected as Fellows of the AACR Academy. They join a select group of distinguished scientists whose major scientific contributions have propelled significant innovation and progress against cancer. All Fellows are nominated and elected through an annual, multi-step peer review process involving a rigorous assessment of each candidate’s scientific accomplishments in cancer research and cancer-related sciences. Only individuals whose work has had a significant and enduring impact on cancer research are considered for election and induction into the AACR Academy. AACR recognized Esserman and Shokat writing:

Laura J. Esserman, MD, MBA

Alfred A. de Lorimier Endowed Chair in General Surgery, UC San Francisco (UCSF); Professor, Departments of Surgery and Radiology; Director, UCSF Breast Care Center; Co-Leader, Breast Oncology Program, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

For steadfast commitment to breast cancer research; her pivotal role as the architect of the Athena Breast Health Network, which gave rise to the WISDOM study, a trial of annual vs. personalized screening and prevention that has enrolled over 50,000 women; her development of new and improved methods to classify tumor subtypes and determine optimal treatment escalation and/or de-escalation; and her visionary leadership of the I-SPY2 adaptive neoadjuvant platform trial for women with stage 2/3 breast cancer - the longest-running platform trial in cancer - which has tested 24 agent combinations over 12 years.

Kevan M. Shokat, PhD

Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, UC San Francisco; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, Maryland; Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

For revolutionary discoveries in the field of chemical genetics, including pioneering work to develop the first covalent inhibitors of KRAS G12C capable of therapeutically targeting a once-undruggable oncogene, which led to clinical trials involving various cohorts of lung, colon and pancreas cancer patients and notably expanded the armamentarium of available agents to combat cancer.

Nilanjana Chatterjee, PhD, UCSF research specialist, Bivona Lab

Chatterjee has been named as a recipient of the 2023 AACR-Doreen J. Putrah Cancer Research Foundation Scholar-in-Training Award for her study (3878) “Targeting Hippo-YAP, BRD4 and RAS-MAPK interplay in lung cancer to forestall drug resistance.” The award is presented to early career investigators of meritorious abstracts presented at the AACR Annual Meeting. She will present her study during poster session PO.ET03.03 Drug Resistance in Molecular Targeted Therapies 3, on Apr. 18, from 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

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