With over “Cancer Moonshot: A Call to Action” 20,000 scientists, the American Association for Cancer Research conference describes itself as a ‘must-attend event for cancer researchers and the broader cancer community’. One sign of the prominence of this event is the fact that US Vice President Joseph Biden will be delivering a special closing address, in connection with the recent announcement of the announced at the recent World Economic Forum.
Here are few of the many highlights from this important conference, in chronological order.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Elaine Mardis (Washington University, St. Louis MO) “Cancer Genomics: a Translational Future” will present what is the current state-of-the-art translational genomics effort from one of the leaders of the Human Genome Center at WashU (as Washington University is known). She has been involved in many major TCGA (The Cancer Genome Atlas) projects and subsequent publications, and here’s one memorable editorial written a few years ago entitled “The $1,0000 genome, the $100,000 analysis?”
Feng Zhang (The Broad Institute, Cambridge MA) “Genome Editing using CRISPR-Cas9 Systems” should also be worthwhile, from one of the discoverers of this revolutionary technology, and one that has not gone without some dispute regarding patent claims and ownership.
In one of the afternoon’s poster sessions, “Novel Assays” (Section 18), includes posters on single-cell Western blotting (out of Stanford University, abstract number 352 Kang and Herr et al), a novel CTC enrichment method using ‘bouyant immuno-bubbles’ (via University of Colorado, abstract number 357 Wang and Simberg et al) and a comparison of ctDNA isolation kits (from CORE Antwerp University Belgium, abstract number 486 Sorber and Pauweis et al.).
Another poster session, “Circulating Biomarkers 1” (the first of 3, Section 23), a group from University of Greece presents data from the new GILUPI GmbH device ‘CellCollector’ (abstract number 503 Strati and Lianidou et al) that does positive CTC selection from an in-vitro device (i.e. a vein catheter); another poster in the same session from the same group looks at PD-L1 expression of CTCs using this method in breast cancer patients. An important poster from Guardant Health is in this section (abstract number 506 Mortimer and Talasaz et al.) reporting on post-surgical resection monitoring in early-stage colorectal carcinoma using Guardant’s ctDNA assay.
In the afternoon one mini-symposia (of several competing alternatives) is one titled “Biomarkers to Direct Cancer Therapy”, with presentations from GenOptix (a Novartis company) with a quantitative novel multiplexed PD-1/PD-L1 IHC test and results of prediction of treatment response in melanoma patients,. Also, work from Novartis in Cambridge MA with a 315-gene panel as a predictor of genome-wide mutational load will be shown; also a presentation from Gustave Roussy (Villejuif, France) examining ALK-amplified CTC enumeration and prediction of progression-free survival (PFS) in ALK-rearranged NSCLC patients. Biodesix (Boulder CO) with Bio-Rad Digital Biology (CA) also presents work detecting EML4-ALK fusion transcripts in the bloodstream of patients with NSCLC.
Monday, April 18, 2016
At 7am in the morning, the ‘Meet the Expert’ sessions are often a highlight of AACR for me personally; perhaps it is the fact that the presenters are doing excellent and highly-regarded work, combined with the fact that they have a full 45 or 50 minutes to dig deeper into the context and current content of their work. John Carpten was deeply involved in cancer genomics in his earlier work at TGEN (Phoenix AZ) and with his new association at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) he will present on the larger topic of “Precision Oncology: Opportunities and Challenges”.
One of Monday morning’s poster sessions of particular interest is “Clinical Assay Development” (Section 21). InCellDx (Pleasanton CA) will present a poster called “PD-L1 and PD-1 expression in NSCLC using 'non-enzymatic tissue dissociation and flow cytometry”, using their novel platform (abstract number 1372, Chargin and Patterson et al.). Our own Yves Konigshofer will present “Patient-derived xenografts as validation material for NGS assays: Analysis of genetic homogeneity” (abstract number 1385 Konigshofer and Garlick et al.) which is preliminary work SeraCare is undertaking as a potential reliable source of clinical laboratory reference materials. In addition, SeraCare’s Catherine Huang will present “Development of Highly Multiplexed, Whole Process Reference Materials for Monitoring Oncology RNA Fusions” (abstract number 1392, Huang and Anekella et al.) presenting our engineered cells that simultaneously express 12 actionable fusion RNAs as full-process reference materials for highly multiplexed fusion RNA assays.
There are a few other posters of note in this session. The National Cancer Institute (Bethesda, MD) will present an important topic (and recently announced funding for it): “Impact of biospecimen pre-analytical factors” (abstract number 1377, Agarwal and Moore et al.). A new company called Directed Genomics (Ipswich MA) has been formed (with close association and collaboration with New England Biolabs, Ipswich MA) and will present a novel targeted RNA-Seq assay they call RNA Direct (abstract number 1398, Patel and Hendrickson et al.).
In the afternoon symposia entitled “Genomics-guided Immunotherapy”, Eliezer Van Allen (Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Cambridge MA) will share his recent work in a talk entitled “Immunogenomics and Precision Cancer Medicine”. Another symposium of interest will take a look at ‘Precision Exercise for Treatment of Cancer: A Translational Approach’, which means what it sounds like - looking at the effect of specific types of physical exercise during the course of treatment, and its efficacy under various clinical trials.
One of the useful aspects of a large conference like this one is informative and practical presentations from vendors of life science research equipment and reagents. Roche Sequencing will be presenting a workshop on the exhibit floor entitled “Liquid Biopsy for the Genomic Profiling of Solid Tumors” with two expert speakers: Ash Alizadeh (Stanford University, CA) with a talk entitled “CAPP-Seq Circulating Tumor DNA Analysis for Personalized Cancer Detection and Monitoring” and Janet Jin (Roche Sequencing, Pleasanton CA) with “Ultrasensitive detection of cell-free tumor DNA using hybrid capture target enrichment”.
Later in the day, an important mini-symposia called Genomic Landscapes will have a presentation from ICM/INSERM U1194 (Montpellier, France) called “Clinical validation of circulating DNA analysis for the detection of point mutations and of the longitudinal metastatic colorectal patient follow up for detecting emergence of resistance to targeted therapy”. It is exactly this kind of work for the clinical validation of ctDNA longitudinally that is needed, and it will be interesting to hear the results of this effort.
After the posters (and exhibits) close for the day on Monday, a very important symposia will take place entitled “The Value of Sharing Genomic and Clinical Outcomes Data”, with Lou Staudt (NCI, Bethesda, MD) and Tom Hudson (Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Global Alliance for Genomics Health GA4GH) sharing their insights.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
One of the 7am ‘Meet the Expert’ sessions is none other than the author of the two seminal papers, ‘Hallmarks of Cancer’, Douglas Hanahan (Swiss Inst. for Exp. Cancer Research, Lausanne, Switzerland). He calls his presentation “Hallmarks of Cancer: From Concepts to Combinatorial Therapies”. (By the way, if you are not familiar with these papers, you are in for a treat. Here’s the first one published in 2000, and the second one was published in 2011 here.)
The morning poster session ‘Circulating Biomarkers 2’ (Section 22) has a poster from Sysmex-Inostics GmbH with a clinical evaluation of Streck cell-free DNA blood collection tubes (abstract number 3145 Diaz and Holtrup et al.) A second poster session, “Molecular Classification and Genomic Applications” (Section 23), Inivata (Cambridge UK) will present “Liquid biopsies for molecular profiling of mutations in non-small cell lung cancer patients lacking tissue samples” (abstract number 3192 Remon and Besse et al.); and another poster from AstraZeneca and M2Gen with the provocative title “Your targeted population might not be what you predict: Changes in tumor genetic landscapes post standard of care” (abstract number 3168, Greenawalt and Dry et al.)
In the main plenary, Charles Swanton (Univ College London Cancer Inst., London UK) will share his important work titled “Tracking cancer evolution through therapy (TRACERx): Implications for immune targeting and surveillance”; Timothy Ley (Washington Univ, St. Louis MO) will present his latest work on the “Acute Myeloid Leukemia Genome(s)”; and Aviv Regev (The Broad Institute, Cambridge MA) will present the latest on single-cell RNA-Seq with a talk entitled “Dissecting the complex ecosystem of malignant tumors with single cell RNA-Seq”.
In the afternoon’s poster session, “Circulating Biomarkers 3 / Immune Biomarkers” (Section 23), Personal Genome Diagnostics (Baltimore MD) will present a poster called “Optimized plasma collection procedures for liquid biopsy analyses in cancer” (abstract number 3957 Parpart-Li and Diaz et al.); Thermo Fisher Scientific (South San Francisco, CA) will present a poster called “Detection of somatic mutations at 0.1% frequency from cfDNA in peripheral blood with a multiplex next-generation sequencing assay” (abstract number 3959, Brinza and Bramlett et al.); and SeraCare’s Seth Harkins will present “Methodological considerations in the preparation of biomimetic reference materials for ctDNA assays” (abstract number 3961 Harkins and Garlick et al.)
Another poster session of interest is “Genomic Technologies” (Section 6), Pacific Biosciences (Menlo Park CA) will present “SMRT® sequencing of DNA samples extracted from formalin-fixed and paraffin embedded tissues” (abstract number 3611 Baybayan and Kujawa et al.); another noteworthy poster is from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (Dartmouth, CT) with “Validation of the Archer FusionPlex solid tumor panel in the JAX cancer treatment profile” (abstract number 3630 Helm and Tsongalis et al.).
One symposium in the afternoon, entitled “Population Genetics Meets Single Cell Analysis”, will cover a wide range of tumor types, and types of analyses.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
A plenary session starts the day entitled “Detection and Monitoring of Pre-Malignant Disease and Therapeutic Response”, with a number of presentations on circulating tumor DNA, CTC-derived explant models, and examination of tumor heterogeneity.
Summarizing the conference will be a plenary session entitled “AACR Annual Meeting 2016 Highlights: Vision for the Future”, where the US Vice President is scheduled to speak, along with Scott Armstrong and Jose Baselga (Memorial Sloan Kettering, NY).
If you are interested in accessing the SeraCare posters after the AACR conference ends, you can contact us here with your request, or check here after the conference ends April 20th. If you are attending AACR, do visit us at Booth 2552. Lastly, stay tuned for new product announcements from SeraCare!