Opening Plenary brings together researchers leading the way to the latest clinical breakthroughs

Charles Swanton, FRCP, BSc, PhD, FAACR
Charles Swanton, FRCP, BSc, PhD, FAACR

Exemplifying the theme of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021: Discovery Science Driving Clinical Breakthroughs, the Opening Plenary Session taking place from 10:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 11, features a world-class roster of speakers in presentations covering a broad range of topics illustrating the translational path from basic science discovery to practice-changing treatment.

“From cutting-edge cell tracking research to advances in our understanding of tumor metabolism to clinical targeting in ethnically diverse populations, this program really encapsulates the bench-to-bedside aspects of cancer research and clinical treatment,” said Charles Swanton, MBPhD, FAACR, who will chair the session.

Among the scheduled presentations, Jonathan S. Weissman, PhD, will discuss experiments involving the use of a single cell “molecular flight recorder” to follow tumor evolution and metastasis.

“This is an exciting area of research,” Dr. Swanton said. “We have fabulous new cell tracking tools helping us to better understand the clonal origins of tumors, to understand tumor biology at an organismal level and a whole animal level to really understand the origins of tumor metastasis and clonal evolution.”

Tumor metabolism will be the topic of a joint presentation “Food for thought: A conversation about the role of diet in cancer,” by Karen H. Vousden, PhD, and Matthew G. Vander Heiden, MD, PhD.

“They will be talking about targeting the tumor metabolism and how to use the tumor’s metabolic phenotype to better understand tumor biology and potential therapeutic actionability,” Dr. Swanton said. “Ongoing research continues to shed new light on how we might be able to exploit specific vulnerabilities of tumor cell metabolic requirements for clinical benefit.”

Genomic sequencing in diverse populations, including to study disparities and ancestries, will be the topic of a presentation by Melissa B. Davis, PhD. She will provide an overview of the newest concepts of complex germline and somatic architecture in the context of disparities and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach that examines both the genetic and social history of cancer patients to better understand the drivers of aggressive tumor biology.

Mark A. Dawson, MD, PhD, will talk about epigenetic mechanisms of malignant clonal dominance and immune evasion, including recent work addressing the significance of transcriptional processes that facilitate malignant clonal dominance in isogenic cancer cells. He will also discuss emerging evidence showing the importance of manipulating transcriptional regulators to facilitate anticancer immune surveillance in a broad range of cancers.

Also presenting during the Opening Plenary Session, Zhijan James Chen, PhD, will discuss igniting an immune response with cGAS, a new means of regulating DNA sensing in the cytoplasm.

Before the Opening Plenary Session, the Annual Meeting Opening Ceremony will feature remarks from AACR Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), recognition of the newly elected 2021 class of Fellows of the AACR Academy, and presentations of the AACR Lifetime Achievement Award, Distinguished Public Service Award, and AACR Margaret Foti Award. The Opening Ceremony will take place from 8:30 to 10:15 a.m. EDT.

A recording of both the Opening Ceremony and the Opening Plenary Session will be available for registered attendees to watch through June 21.