Annual AACR meeting focuses on pioneering research and patient care

Susan Cohn, MD, center, accepting Joseph Burchenal Memorial Award at 2019 AACR
Susan Cohn, MD, professor of pediatrics and chief of the Section of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology received the 2019 AACR-Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research for her pioneering international pediatric clinical research. In this photo, Cohn, center, is pictured with 2018-19 AACR President Elizabeth Jaffee, left, and AACR CEO Margaret Foti, right.

More than 22,000 of the top cancer scientists from across the globe met in Atlanta in early April for the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), the premier international cancer research organization. Reflecting AACR’s focus on pioneering science, reducing the cancer burden worldwide and translating research findings into personalized oncology medicine, the theme of the conference was “Integrative Cancer Science. Global Impact. Individualized Patient Care.”

The stellar scientific program featured research across a broad range of disciplines and showcased all of the hottest areas in cancer research, including immunotherapy, the microbiome, cellular therapy, big data, using the physical sciences to tackle challenges in oncology, personalized treatment and biomarkers, cancer disparities, and cancer risk and survivorship. An overarching theme was putting cancer patients front and center. Patient involvement at the conference and policy sessions, for example, highlighted the continuing need to engage cancer patients as partners in progress.

Many University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center faculty, staff and trainees were invited to share their latest research findings at the conference. A list of select highlights is below; you can see a complete listing of UChicago Medicine presentations is here.

  • Susan Cohn, MD, professor of pediatrics and chief of the Section of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, received the 2019 AACR-Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research for her pioneering international pediatric clinical research. Cohn delivered her award lecture on “Advancing Treatment Through Collaboration: A Pediatric Oncology Paradigm.”
  • Melody Swartz, PhD, William B. Ogden Professor of Molecular Engineering, presented her work on exploiting immune functions of lymphatic vessels for cancer immunotherapy in a major symposium. Swartz also co-chaired a mini symposium on the tumor microenvironment.
  • Thomas Gajewski, MD, PhD, AbbVie Foundation Professor of Cancer Immunotherapy, chaired an education session on immunotherapy and presented his work on improving immunotherapy efficacy by understanding mechanisms of resistance. Gajewski and Jason Luke, MD, assistant professor of medicine, also participated in roundtable discussions on tumor immunotherapy.
  • Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, FACP, FASCO, Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics, presented on community partnerships to close knowledge gaps about genetic ancestry and cancer trajectory in an education session and presented in Women in Cancer Research (WICR) Scientific Symposium on advances in genetics, diagnosis, and therapeutics among common cancers in women. She also discussed what cancer genomes tell us about the origins of breast cancer in a “Meet-the-Expert” session.
  • Stephen Kron, MD, PhD, professor of molecular genetics and cell biology, presented on his research focused on targeting tumor metabolism to block repair and reverse immortality in a major symposium. Kron also presented a poster from his laboratory.
  • Lucy Godley, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, presented her work on the diagnosis and management of patients with germline predisposition to hematopoietic malignancies.
  • Ernst Lengyel, MD, PhD, Arthur L. and Lee G. Herbst Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, chaired and presented his work in an educational session on obesity and effects of local and systemic inflammation on cancer.
  • Jyoti Patel, MD, professor of medicine,presented on designing meaningful and impactful clinical trials in a methods workshop.
  • Kay Macleod, PhD, associate professor of the Ben May Department for Cancer Research, presented her work on mitophagy in tumor cell growth and metastasis in an educational session.
  • Faculty members Lixing Yang, PhD, assistant professor of the Ben May Department for Cancer Research and Randy Sweis, MD, assistant professor of medicine, presented posters on their latest research findings.
  • UChicago PhD students Jillian Rosenberg (Huang laboratory), Eric Bueter (Szmulewitz), Matt Trendowski (Dolan) and Deniz Dolcen (Conzen) and postdoctoral fellows Lea Maillat (Swartz), Babatunde Adedokun (Olopade), Masaya Hattori (Olopade), John-Michael Williford (Hubbell and Swartz), Gang Li (Moellering), Ken Hatogai (Sweis), Jiyoung Lee (Rosner), Dongbo Yang (Rosner), Priscilla Briquez (Hubbell), Maria Stella Sasso (Swartz), and Jun Ishihara (Hubbell) all presented their work in minisymposia or poster sessions.
  • Comprehensive Cancer Center Chicago EYES (Educators and Youth Enjoy Science) on Cancer program high school students Ocean Malka (Catenacci laboratory), Anna Martinez (King), Jose Acebedo (Chang) and Rene Maldonado (Bader) presented posters of their summer research projects.