The American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018 beings tomorrow (14 April) in Chicago, Illinois, where world-leading researchers in oncology will discuss the latest advances in cancer research.
Presentations will cover the latest findings in the fundamental science of cancer and in various ways it can be applied for patients – including drug discovery, clinical trials and studies of cancer detection, diagnosis and prevention.
Prominent on the programme will be leading laboratory and clinical researchers from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, who will be presenting talks and posters on their most recent, exciting research.
Two ICR researchers, Dr Ilirjana Bajrami and Dr Dragomir Krastev, won AACR Scholar-in-Training awards in order to attend the conference.
Repurposing drugs to treat breast cancer
Dr Bajrami, from Professor Chris Lord’s team, will be giving a talk on her recent work into the use of drug, crizotinib to treat breast cancer with a particular genetic defect – a mutation in the E-cadherin protein which normally acts to bind cells together.
Crizotinib inhibits the ROS1 gene involved in the rearrangement process of genes which are linked to lung and other cancers, and has been approved for treatment of patients with metastatic ROS1-postitive non-small cell lung cancer.
Professor Lord said:
“These are hugely promising laboratory findings and we're very keen to learn whether this class of drug really works as a treatment for women with breast cancer.
“What we have seen so far suggests this is certainly an approach worth pursuing and we are very enthusiastic about the prospect of applying our scientific results in clinical trials.”
At the ICR, we believe it's important to take into account differences between cancers and individuals as we discover new cancer treatments – an approach known as personalised medicine.
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Identifying tumour suppressor genes
A poster presentation by Dr Rachael Natrajan will show her team’s work which led to the identification of a new tumour suppressor gene.
The team recreated a similar environment to that of a patient, and removed the most common mutated genes found in breast cancer in order to identify which genes had an effect on the growth of breast cancer cells.
This study uncovered a new gene that can act as a tumour suppressor and which is altered in up to a third of triple negative breast cancers.
Combining drugs to overcome resistance
Dr Steven Whittaker will also be presenting a poster showing how bowel cancers can be resistant to a class of drugs, known as MEK inhibitors, by activating the inflammatory response.
Combining MEK inhibitors with drugs that block inflammatory genes could reverse drug resistance and be a possible way of treating bowel cancer.
Step towards new sarcoma treatment
In her presentation, Dr Emmy Fleuren will be describing the pathway to discovery of a potential treatment for the aggressive cancer, synovial sarcoma – which is characterised by a protein, SS18-SSX, which is not present in normal cells.
Her research explored an approach known as ‘synthetic lethality’ – which takes advantage of the genetic weaknesses of cancer cells – to propose new approaches to treatment.
New immunotherapy drug for head and neck cancer
A clinical trial involving Professor Kevin Harrington, Professor of Biological Therapies at the ICR and a consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, is due to be presented at the conference.
The research has examined the use of the immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab, against head and neck cancer.
Professor Harrington has been involved in several clinical trials showing the effectiveness of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer and melanoma.
Recognising leading a ICR researcher’s achievements
Professor Johann de Bono, Regius Professor of Cancer Research at the ICR and a consultant at The Royal Marsden, will receive the 2018 AACR-Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research, recognising his outstanding and world-leading research in the clinical development of personalised cancer treatments.
As part of this award, Professor de Bono will give a lecture the fourth day (17 April) of the AACR conference – titled ‘Re-envisioning clinical cancer research’.
Best practice for chemical probes can improve research outcomes
Professor Paul Workman, the ICR’s chief executive, will chair a session about the ‘use and abuse of chemical probes’.
Dr Albert Antolin, a post-doctoral student in Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani’s team at the ICR, will be giving a talk on Probe Miner, a website resource to help researchers select chemical probes for their experiments. The use of poor-quality chemical probes can alter research outcomes.
Probe Miner, particularly when used in conjunction with the experience and knowledge of experts available in resources such as The Chemical Probes Portal, can help researchs select the best probes, increasing the accuracy and robustness of results.
Professor Workman explained:
“Our new Probe Miner resource provides biomedical scientists with detailed, up-to-date information about all chemical tools available, so they can make informed decisions about which ones are the best fit for their research. We hope this will make the results of research more correct and robust while reducing waste – of time and money.”
Follow the conference news
This is just a snapshot of the exciting upcoming research at this year’s AACR Annual Meeting. Keep up to date with the conference by following along on social media using the hastag #AACR18.
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