DDW’s Megan Thomas rounds up highlights from Sunday 16 April at AACR 2023, from promising trial results for a personalised mRNA-based cancer vaccine to winners of lifetime achievement awards.
Opening plenary session
Sunday’s opening plenary session borrowed its name from the Annual Meeting theme, “Advancing the Frontiers of Cancer Science and Medicine”, which kicked off 2023’s programme. The session featured an introduction from the Annual Meeting Program Committee Chair Robert H Vonderheide, as well as insight on the following topics:
- Translating knowledge from panels to practice to population health,
- Learning tumour immunology from immunotherapy success and failures,
- Cancer cachexia: Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge,
- Malignancies in people with HIV: Successes and challenges at the intersection of virology, immunology, and oncology,
- To the moon and back: Centering equity at the frontiers of cancer care,
- Wrap-up and opportunities for the future.
Clinical announcements and discussions
Personalised mRNA-based cancer vaccine
Attendees were presented with clinical trial results for mRNA-4157/V940, a personalised mRNA-based cancer vaccine, in combination with the immune checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda), which improved recurrence-free survival (RFS) compared with pembrolizumab alone in patients with high-risk melanoma, and the clinical benefit was observed regardless of the tumour mutational burden (TMB) status.
Adjuvant treatment with atezolizumab and bevacizumab
Adjuvant therapy with atezolizumab (Tecentriq) and bevacizumab (Avastin) increased recurrence-free survival of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) following surgical resection or ablation, according to the results from the Phase III IMbrave050 clinical trial.
Durvalumab-based treatment before and after surgery
Results from the Phase III placebo-controlled AEGEAN clinical trial showed that patients with treatment-naïve resectable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who received neoadjuvant durvalumab (Imfinzi) plus chemotherapy and adjuvant durvalumab monotherapy had improved event-free survival (EFS) and pathological complete response (pCR) compared with those who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy alone.
First-line pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy
The addition of pembrolizumab (Keytruda) to gemcitabine and cisplatin improved overall survival in patients with untreated metastatic or unresectable biliary tract cancer, according to results from the phase III KEYNOTE-966 clinical trial.
In an afternoon plenary session, Harnessing the immune system in the clinic, lively discussions took place around these breakthroughs in the following presentations:
- A personalised cancer vaccine, mRNA-4157, combined with pembrolizumab versus pembrolizumab in patients with resected high-risk melanoma: Efficacy and safety results from the randomised, open-label Phase II mRNA-4157-P201/Keynote-942 trial (Jeffrey S Weber, Deputy Director of the NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center and Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Professor of Oncology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine)
- KEYMAKER-U02 substudy 02C: Neoadjuvant pembrolizumab (pembro) + vibostolimab (vibo) or gebasaxturev (geba) or pembo alone followed by adjuvant pembro for stage IIIB-D melanoma (Reinhard Dummer, Professor of the University of Zurich and Vice-Chairman of the Department of Dermatology in the University Hospital of Zürich)
- IMbrave050: Phase III study of adjuvant atezolizumab + bevacizumab versus active surveillance in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma at high risk of disease recurrence following resection or ablation (Ahmed O Kaseb, Professor, Department of Gastrointestinal (GI) Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center)
- AEGEAN: A Phase III trial of neoadjuvant durvalumab + chemotherapy followed by adjuvant duravalumab in patients with respectable NSCLC (Eduardo Castañón, Medical Oncologist)
AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research
Across Sunday 16 April, AACR announced several award winners for various achievements in cancer research, a highlight of which was the AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research. This award was established to honor an individual who has made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work. These contributions, whether in research, leadership, or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer.
The 2023 winner Carl H June, a fellow of the AACR Academy, is the Richard W Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, Director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is being recognised for his ‘revolutionary’ contributions to developing the first gene-edited cell-based therapy for cancer that involves the genetic re-engineering of a patient’s own T cells to combat their disease, and for demonstrating that adoptive T-cell therapy can induce remission and in some cases cure patients with advanced cancer.
AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research
Another award highlight was the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research. This award is presented for outstanding, novel, and significant chemistry research that has led to important contributions in basic cancer research, translational cancer research, cancer diagnosis, the prevention of cancer, or the treatment of patients with cancer.
The 2023 winner, Carolyn R Bertozzi, is the Baker Family Director of Sarafan ChEM-H, the Anne T and Robert M Bass Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Professor of Chemistry and, by courtesy, of Chemical and Systems Biology and of Radiology at Stanford University. She is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Adding to her 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Bertozzi is being recognised for her ‘groundbreaking’ contributions to the development of biorthogonal chemistry, profiling cell surface glycosylation alterations commonly associated with cancer, inflammation, and bacterial infection, and for spearheading the development of novel diagnostic probes for the study of cancer-immune cell interactions and immunotherapy development.
AACR Distinguished Public Service Award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Advocacy
Phyllis Pettit Nassi and Jane Perlmutter, the two winners of the AACR Distinguished Public Service Award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Advocacy, were acknowledged for extraordinary work that has exemplified the AACR’s mission to prevent and cure all cancers through research, education, communication, collaboration, science policy, advocacy, and funding for cancer research.
Phyllis Pettit Nassi, MSW, is the Associate Director, Research and Science, Special Populations at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. She is being recognised for her longstanding commitment as a patient advocate for American Indian tribes across the Mountain West and beyond, and for an unwavering commitment to improving health literacy and clinical trial enrollment among American Indian populations that has profoundly impacted these underserved communities and drastically improved their quality of life and access to cancer care.
Jane Perlmutter, PhD, MBA, is President and Founder of the Gemini Group. A breast cancer survivor herself, she is being recognised for her unparalleled 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 I-SPY2; and for efforts to ensure that the patient voice is included in research and trial design, accelerating patient access to new treatments, and dramatically improving their quality of life and overall survivorship.
AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Lectureship
Last, but not least, of the awards presented today included the AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Lectureship, which is presented to an outstanding scientist who has made meritorious contributions to the field of cancer research and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered the advancement of women in science.
Winner Cory Abate-Shen is the Robert Sonneborn Professor of Medicine, Professor of Urologic Sciences, Pathology and Cell Biology, and Systems Biology in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Institute for Cancer Genetics, and Chair of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Columbia University. She is being recognised for her pioneering research dedicated to discovering and defining the role of NKX3.1 as a master regulator of prostate differentiation and cancer initiation and progression, for generating unique and reliable murine bladder and prostate cancer models, and for steadfast commitment to serving as a leader, mentor, and supporter of women in cancer research.
Read more about AACR award winners here.