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LLS Highlighting Immunotherapy at ASH Satellite Symposium

Posted by DrLouDeGennaro in The LLS Blog, 24 November 2014 · 37 views

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Immunotherapy has become the hot topic of late within the cancer community, which is why LLS has selected immunotherapy as the focus of our satellite symposium in advance of the 56th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting.

The symposium, “Emerging Immunotherapies for Hematologic Malignancies: Improving Patient Outcomes by Harnessing the Immune System,” takes place on Friday, December 5, 7-11 a.m. PT, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The program, featuring renowned researchers, will highlight the multiple approaches to stimulate the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells.

Harnessing the body’s immune system to fight cancer is an idea that has been around for many years. In fact, the concept was initially reported in the 1950’s when it was demonstrated that transplants from the bone marrow of mice could eradicate leukemia cells in other mice.

However, it has only been in recent years, with far better understanding of immune systembiology and advanced technologies, that immunotherapy has demonstrated great results in multiple cancer types, including blood cancers.

One of the approaches that will be making news this year at ASH, the annual meeting that draws more than 20,000 hematology researchers from around the world, is the concept of inhibiting so-called immune checkpoints – proteins that suppress the immune system. Removing these “brakes” can unleash the immune system and researchers are studying the possibility of using antibodies to target these checkpoints. Alexander M. Lesokhin, M.D., Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will discuss this approach during LLS’s symposium.

Another topic that has been in the news for several years now, and that I’ve talked about previously in this blog, is called CAR T immunotherapy - an investigational personalized cellular therapy in which patients’ immune T cells are genetically engineered and re-introduced into the body to kill cancer cells. Michel Sadelain, M.D., P.h.D., Sloan Kettering Institute, will take on this topic at our symposium.

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with several types of cancer. In her discussion entitled “Priming T Cells Against EBV,” Helen Heslop, M.D. of Baylor College of Medicine, and a long-time LLS-fund recipient, will discuss mobilizing the body’s natural killer T cells against the cancer-causing Epstein-Barr virus.

In his talk, “Small Molecule Immunomodulatory Drugs,” John Gribben, M.D., of Barts Cancer Center in London, will discuss the great promise that small molecules hold for regulating the immune system. And Eric Sievers, M.D., of Seattle Genetics, Inc., will discuss how antibodies that are linked to anti-cancer toxins can specifically “home” on blood cancer cells and eliminate the malignant cells.

The symposium will also include a panel discussion, led by Owen O’Connor, M.D., Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center. The panel topic is “How Do We Operationalize and Move Immunological Strategies Forward in a Timely Fashion.” Our panelists will address the challenges of getting these innovative therapeutic approaches through the approval process as quickly as possible.

I think you’ll agree that this symposium is quite timely, as every day we learn more about new approaches to activate the immune system to help the body fight cancer. To learn more about our symposium please click here.

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