Plenary program kicks with a session dedicated to the science of precancer

This year’s Annual Meeting plenary program kicks off Saturday afternoon, April 9, with a plenary session dedicated to the science of precancer. The two-hour Precancer Discovery Science plenary begins at 4:15 p.m. CDT in Hall B-C at the convention center.

Catriona H. M. Jamieson, MD, PhD
Catriona H. M. Jamieson, MD, PhD

“It’s very exciting that, for the first time at the AACR Annual Meeting, we will have an entire plenary session devoted to precancer and the emerging discoveries that are providing insight into ways we might be able to intercept cancer before it actually becomes cancer,” said session chair Catriona H. M. Jamieson, MD, PhD, UCSD Moores Cancer Center.

The session will highlight new perspectives on cancer prevention, an integral part of the AACR’s research and health policy efforts.

“The question that we’ve tried to answer over many years is what are the events that allow that pre-malignant stem cell to take off—to launch, so to speak—and become cancer? It had long been assumed that there are sequential changes that happen in a very predictable way, but we’re learning now that it’s much more complicated than that,” Jamieson said.

The challenge for researchers has been the limitations in studying the evolution of precancer in humans. However, ongoing “omics” advances are providing ways to study the early processes driving malignancy, Jamieson said.

“We couldn’t study this before because we simply didn’t have the genomics tools, the transcriptomics tools, or the proteomics tools that worked in humans,” she said. “We’ve always had to do things in mice and in zebrafish, or using reductionist model-systems like fruit flies. Now, thanks to these advances, we have humans as a model-system and we can study real people with real disease at different stages.”

Jamieson will present a lecture on niche-dependent precancer stem cell detection and eradication during the plenary. The session’s four other speakers will discuss other hot topics and recent discoveries in the field, including early detection and interception via a precancer atlas; lessons learned from research on the progression of Barrett’s esophagus to esophageal cancer; the association between somatic mosaicism and classic oncogenic drivers; and advances in genomic medicine driving research on targeted cancer interception.

“This is a very important session because this is a field that is moving at light speed,” Jamieson said. “The idea of interception is now possible because we can detect cancer in its infancy and, increasingly, we’re even able to study cancer before it gets started. We know that the lower the burden of cancer, the higher our chance is of being successful in treating people. So, if we can intercede with cancer before it has the robust capacity to clone itself—before cancer is really cancer—we can expect higher cure rates. That is the hope.”