Looking ahead to AACR  

Ahead of attending the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting from 14-19 April, 2023 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, DDW’s Megan Thomas outlines what to expect from the event.  

Programme highlights  

The topic tracks include everything from clinical trials, drug development, immunology and bioinformatics, to global health, survivorship, prevention and tumour biology, to name just a few. These topics will be represented across a range of session types, including methods workshops, minisymposia, poster and plenary sessions, as well as keynotes, awards and lectures. The programme is broken down into sessions, highlights of which include: 

Looking for the Achilles Heel: Phenotypic Screening as an Engine in Cancer Drug Discovery 

There will be presentations and discussions within this educational session, which include:  

  • An introduction from the Chair, Matthew Garnett, Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK  
  • Phenotypic screening: Why, when, and how? from Fabien Vincent, Pfizer, Groton, US  
  • High content phenotypic and pathway profiling identifies novel drug mechanisms-of-action tailored towards cancers of unmet need by Neil Carragher, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK 
  • Functional genomics as an enabling tool for phenotypic screening by Matthew Garnett 

Chemistry to the Clinic: Part 1-3:  

1: The Next Generation of Antibody Drug Conjugates 

There will be presentations and discussions within this educational session, which include:  

  • An introduction from the Chair, Peter Dragovich, Genentech, San Francisco, US 
  • Recent progress in the optimisation of antibody-drug conjugates as novel cancer therapies from Peter Dragovich  
  • Immunostimulatory payloads and novel technologies for antibody-drug conjugates by Marc Damelin, Mersana Therapeutics, Cambridge, US 
  • Considerations for non-oncology antibody-drug conjugates by Adrian Hobson, AbbVie, Worcester, US 

2: Leveraging induced proximity – beyond targeted protein degradation  

There will be presentations and discussions within this educational session, which include:  

  • An introduction from the Chair, Lyn Jones, Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, Boston, US  
  • Emerging opportunities for non-degrading molecular superglues from Lyn Jones  
  • Sequence-based design of small molecule RNA degraders from Matthew Disney, The Scripps Research Institute, Juniper, US  
  • Mechanism of action of velcrin small molecules from Heidi Greulich, Broad Institute, Cambridge, US 

 3: Covalency and target validation 

There will be presentations and discussions within this educational session, which include:  

  • An introduction from the Chair, Daniel Nomura, University of California, Berkeley, US 
  • Covalent small-molecule protein degraders from Ekaterina Vinogradova, The Rockefeller University, New York, US  
  • Recent advances in covalent therapeutics: Expanding the druggable proteome from Patrick Gunning, University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada 
  • Reimagining draggability using chemoproteomic platforms from Daniel Nomura 

Models for ageing and cancer  

There will be presentations and discussions within this educational session, which include:  

  • An introduction from the Chair, Lan Coffman, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, US 
  • Age-development evolution of cancers: Leveraging computational, mouse and human models from James DeGregori, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, US  
  • Studying the impact of the aging stromal microenvironment on cancer initiation from Lan Coffman 
  • Evaluation of aging mechanisms in the pre-malignant population from Megan Wevoda, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, US  

 Novel frontiers in drug discovery 

There will be presentations and discussions within this educational session, which include:  

  • An introduction from the Chair, Eric Fischer, Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, Boston, US  
  • Molecular glues for protein degradation and beyond by Eric Fischer 
  • Targeting autophagy in cancer from Christina Towers, Salk Institute, La Jolla, US  
  • Drugging GBP1 as a therapeutic strategy for cancer from Sanjay Malhotra, Knight Cancer Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, US  

New concepts in drug discovery and engineering  

There will be presentations and discussions within this educational session, which include:  

  • An introduction from the Chair, Sanjay Malhotra 
  • Engineered proteins as innovative next-generation cancer therapeutics from Jennifer Cochran, Stanford University, Sanford, US 
  • PL05-01 – To the tumour and beyond: Tales of a holistic miRNA delivery vehicle from Andrea Kasinski, Purdue University, West Lafayette, US  
  • PL05-03 – What if all your favourite proteins are druggable? from Gregory Bowman, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, US  
  • Employing targeted nanocarriers for cell-selective cancer therapy from Evan Scott, Northwestern University, Evanston, US  
  • The renaissance of antibody drug conjugates in oncology from Puja Sapra, AstraZeneca – MedImmune, Gaithersburg, US 
  • Wrap-up and opportunities for the future from Sanjay Malhotra 

Professional development workshop 

Sponsored by The Victoria’s Secret Global Fund for Women’s Cancers, in partnership with Pelotonia and AACR-Women in Cancer Research (WICR), AACR will facilitate an interactive, professional development workshop focusing on leadership training for women in science – at all stages of their careers.  

Over the course of four hours, workshop attendees will engage in a plenary session and small group exercises where they will have the opportunity to understand and capture their ability to recognise their sources of power, understand and leverage their circles of influence to achieve audacious goals, and deepen their connections with female colleagues. The workshop will be led by hfp consulting, a firm which specialises in career development and leadership training for scientists. 

This session will take place during the meeting on Saturday, 15 April, 2023 at 11:45 PM – 3:45 PM EST. Location: Orange County Convention Center, Rooms W 340AB. 

Distinguished Public Service awards 

The AACR will present the 2023 AACR Distinguished Public Service Awards for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Advocacy to Phyllis Pettit Nassi, MSW, and Jane Perlmutter, PhD, MBA, at the meeting.  

Phyllis Pettit Nassi, MSW, is the Associate Director of Research and Science, Special Populations at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. She is being recognised for her longstanding commitment as a patient advocate for American Indian Tribes across the Mountain West and beyond, and for her commitment to improving health literacy and clinical trial enrolment among American Indian populations. Her work has impacted tribal, rural, and frontier communities and improved quality of life and access to cancer care. 

Jane Perlmutter, PhD, MBA, is President and Founder of the Gemini Group. A survivor of breast, esophageal, and lung cancer herself, she is being recognised for her leadership as a patient advocate, including through the AACR’s Scientist↔Survivor Program; her dedication to improving the patient experience through innovative clinical trial designs, including ISPY2, TAPUR and the Alliance for Clinical Trials; and for efforts to ensure that the patient voice is included in research and trial design, accelerating patient access to new treatments and drastically improving their quality of life and overall survivorship. 

Science ↔ Survivor Program 

As mentioned previously, AACR has a Scientist↔Survivor Program. Its purpose is to build enduring partnerships between the leaders of the scientific, cancer survivor, and patient advocacy communities worldwide. The programme at AACR 2023 offers the opportunity for participants to:  

  • Attend lectures about cancer research that are tailored to a lay audience 
  • Discuss relevant and timely cancer topics during small group meetings, roundtable discussions and meetings with scientific mentors 
  • Explore the scientific sessions of the meeting on their own or with scientific mentors or other advocates 
  • Communicate to scientists the key issues, questions and concerns of the patient advocacy communities 
  • Create and promote their (organisations’) mission by participating in the poster sessions 
  • Network with scientists and fellow advocates from local, national, and international cancer organisations.

The advocate stories to date are inspiring, including examples such as Cindy Chmielewski, a retired educator diagnosed with a multiple myeloma, who researched her illness and now uses social media to help and educate others, as well as Diane Nathaniel, a school counsellor whose colon cancer diagnosis led her to create communities for herself and her community in Brooklyn and beyond. The list is extensive.  

AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J Old award in Cancer Immunology 

AACR will award Edward John Wherry, PhD, with the 2023 AACR-Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology at the meeting. 

Wherry is Chair of the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, Director of the Institute for Immunology, and founding director of the Immune Health Project in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is being honoured for his discoveries associated with deciphering the mechanisms of T-cell exhaustion in cancer, which has aided and informed research dedicated to establishing effective checkpoint blockade immunotherapies and has revealed novel approaches to reinvigorate T cells. 

Related Articles

Join FREE today and become a member
of Drug Discovery World

Membership includes:

  • Full access to the website including free and gated premium content in news, articles, business, regulatory, cancer research, intelligence and more.
  • Unlimited App access: current and archived digital issues of DDW magazine with search functionality, special in App only content and links to the latest industry news and information.
  • Weekly e-newsletter, a round-up of the most interesting and pertinent industry news and developments.
  • Whitepapers, eBooks and information from trusted third parties.
Join For Free