CIMT is one of the most prominent networks in the cancer immunology and immunotherapy research field. Their annual meetings are of high scientific merits and attracts talented researchers (more than 900 participants this year) from all around the globe. The annual meeting in 2012 was my first experience to an international congress, which was for sure a thrilling experience and learning process.
CIMT2014 IN MY EYES
Compared to my first trip to CIMT two years ago, I have now had my own research focus, which is targeting immunosuppression mediated by myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Luckily, my abstract was granted for both a poster and an oral presentation in the session of ‘tumor biology and their interactions with immune system’. My abstract evaluated the induction of MDSCs by tumor-derived PGE2 and their interactions with natural killer cells, using patient materials and in vivo model. During the 2.5-hour poster session, I enjoyed engaging discussions in depth with researchers and clinicians who are interested in using MDSCs as a therapeutic target for cancer immunotherapy. My short talk was a memorable experience, where I introduced the development of the hypothesis and my understandings on this topic. It was received well and responded with further discussion both during and after my talk. The most exciting news to share was that my poster, as a representative from Karolinska Institutet in my category, was awarded the best poster prize, one of the 6 awards among more than 300 submitted abstracts!
COMBINATIONAL THERAPIES IN CANCER IMMUNOLOGY
A series of clinical studies have revealed the great potential of eliciting anti-tumor immunity in cancer therapy. Some of the patients with metastatic diseases have acquired durable regressions and long-lasting immune protection. Due to all these recent achievements, the field of cancer immunology is developing rapidly. However, a major concern in the field is to develop efficient treatment which could eliminate immune suppressive mechanisms in cancer microenvironment.
At CIMT2014, a hot topic that has been discussed repeated is how to explore the immune-modulating potential of the existing pharmacological compounds, in order to boost immune stimulating methods such as checkpoint blockade and adoptive cell therapy.
Using mouse models, Dr. George Coukos have demonstrated aspirin, a well-known anti-inflammatory compound, could enhance T cell infiltration in the tumor tissues, when combined with anti-VEGF antibody therapy. They further showed the effects could be boosted when checkpoint blockade anti-PDL1 antibody is combined. One of the major functions of aspirin is to limit the prostaglandin-E2 production in the tumor. Our own data suggests that tumor-derived PGE2 could drive the induction of MDSCs, therefore, elimination of immune suppression mediated through these mechanisms may have contributed substantially to the combinational effects.
Personalized medicine was another focus of the meeting. The German cancer research society has put great efforts into identifying mutations in cancer cells using whole genome sequencing. They are pioneered in establishing the technical platform and most importantly, to provide the bioinformatics manpower and data management strategy in the topic. With the cost decreasing day by day, applying whole genome sequencing approach to personalized medicine is the goal in the future.
It is of course worth of mentioning the good weather and great German beer and schinitzels. Mainz is a nice city crowded with research institutions and entrepreneurial talents, which for sure will be the driving force of cancer immunotherapy!