Dr Max Wicha is the 2016 recipient of the AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research. At the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS16) he gave his award lecture, “Targeting Breast Cancer Stem Cells: Challenges and Opportunities.”
SABC16 Dr Max Wicha Award Lecture
As the AACR press release notes, “This lectureship recognizes an outstanding scientist whose work has inspired or has the potential to inspire new perspectives on the etiology, diagnosis, treatment or prevention of breast cancer.”
Dr Wicha is a pioneer in the field of cancer stem cells, and is Director Emeritus of the University of Michigan Comprenhensive Cancer Center and a co-founder of OncoMed Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OMED).
Targeting cancer stem cells is an area I expect we will hear a lot more about, particularly in breast cancer. Dr Wicha kindly spoke to BSB after his award lecture, which was one of my highlights of SABCS16.
In case you missed it, do check out the post from the 2016 EORTC-NCI-AACR Molecular Targets Symposium in Munich that featured Dr Mina Bisell (Berkeley), who was a previous recipient of the AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research award in 2012 (Link.)
This is the fifth in our series of expert interviews from the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
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A decade or so ago, the annual conferences for the European Congress of Clinical Oncologists (ECCO) and European Society of Medical Oncologists (ESMO) were considered convenient dumping grounds for negative or failed trials. This was largely because they received much less attention than their big brother, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
In the last few years, this trend has shifted with excellent clincial and scientific data being presented at both meetings – they alternate as hosts each year – under the European Cancer Congress (ECC) umbrella.
Just to confuse a global audience long used to referring to the meetings as ESMO and ECCO, while the logical Twitter hashtag might appear to be #ESMO14 and #ECCO15, respectively, based on the standard nomenclature of conference acronym followed by the year, the vagaries of European politics mean we end up with… #ECC2015.
It will be interesting to see how they compete for attention because this hashtag signal will be dirty (more than one usage) and noisy (many disparate voices) with the European Curling Championship, a European Cheerleader Convention and another on e-cigarettes and vaping, all seemingly using the same moniker!
Still, what many readers are really eager to learn though, is this a great, middling, or poor year for exciting new data in the field of cancer research and what can we expect to hear about in Vienna later this month?
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After yesterdays post on Gems from the Poster Halls at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Philadelphia where we took a look at new developments in targeted therapies, several subscribers asked for a repeat, but with a focus on immuno-oncology.
There are a number of elements that many people are interested in, especially given the Merck and BMS clinical data at AACR, where we clearly saw that:
- Anti-PD–1 therapy with pembrolizumab is superior to anti-CTLA4 with ipilimumab in metastatic melanoma (expect nivolumab to show the same thing at ASCO)
- Combined PD–1 plus CTLA4 blockade (with nivolumab plus ipilimumab) was superior to anti-CTLA4 alone, but with higher grade 3/4 toxicities, also in advanced melanoma
Sadly though, we still see that 70-80% of patients don’t respond to these therapies.
- How can we improve on that?
- What happens when we explore other factors, tumour types and different aspects of the immune system?
- What can we learn about novel sequencing or combination approaches?
- Which ones look interesting?
Endless questions can be asked – to which we still have too few answers – although there were some encouraging signs and hints of possibilities at AACR.
The 2015 AACR program was particularly challenging this year with lots of really good symposia and general sessions, making it tough to whizz round the vast poster hall spread out around the exhibits as well. To give you an idea of scale, it was pretty typical to cover 17K to 18K steps a day, approximately 7 to 8 miles. For many people, fitting in a quick lunch and the posters was certainly a challenging feat, depending where you were in the complex. With a morning session ending at 12.30pm, the afternoon session starting at 1pm and 2,000 steps between the Grand and Terrace Ballrooms, you sure had to get your skates on, Beep Beep!
To learn more about the latest data in these areas, especially from the small up and coming biotechs, you can sign up or sign in below.