Ludwig researchers showed up in force—virtually and (gasp!) in person—at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, which took place in New Orleans this year. Aside from presenting new data in dozens of posters, many gave talks at educational and meet-the-expert sessions, various symposia and at the prestigious plenary sessions on two mornings.
The opening plenary session on Sunday, April 10, saw three Ludwig-affiliated scientists presenting their research, beginning with Ludwig Harvard’s Franziska Michor, who described her lab’s quantitative studies and mathematical modeling of tumor cell heterogeneity and evolution, and showed how such studies can be applied to overcome drug resistance. Franziska was followed by her Ludwig Harvard colleague Marcia Haigis, who presented her lab’s exploration of metabolic phenomena in cancer, including how the activity of certain metabolic enzymes suppresses anti-tumor T cells and how obesity alters the metabolism of immune cells in a manner that increases cancer risk. (Marcia gave a special shout-out to Ludwig at the end of her talk! Ludwig Link notes the appreciation is mutual.)
A third Ludwig-affiliated researcher, Ludwig Johns Hopkins’s Nickolas Papadopoulos, discussed the opportunities and challenges of using liquid biopsies for the early detection of multiple cancers. He described technical innovations that have dramatically improved the sensitivity of their liquid biopsies and a variety of scientific and medical issues associated with the Hopkins team’s groundbreaking development of the multi-cancer liquid biopsy CancerSEEK.
The clinical trials plenary that afternoon saw the presentation of some very exciting research by Stanford pediatric oncologist Robbie Majzner, who reported the results of an ongoing clinical trial led by Ludwig Stanford’s Crystal Mackall and Michelle Monje (also see interview, page 20, and feature, page 10). The talk described how repeated infusions of anti-GD2 CAR-T cells into the bloodstream and the cerebrospinal fluid as a treatment for H3K27M-mutated diffuse midline gliomas induced remarkable regressions, clinical responses and survival benefits in young patients with these universally lethal cancers. A video of one of those patients—a five-year-old girl who had been almost immobilized by her disease now riding a skateboard—elicited rare, spontaneous applause from the audience.
On Monday, Ludwig Oxford’s Yang Shi presented his lab’s studies on how epigenetics influences the exhaustion of T cells essential to anti-tumor immunity and described how a class of epigenetic drugs known as LSD1 inhibitors can reinvigorate the immune cells to boost the efficacy of checkpoint blockade immunotherapy. Ludwig Chicago’s Sean Pitroda described his work, much of it done in collaboration with Director Ralph Weichselbaum’s team, on the use of integrated molecular subtyping to personalize radiation therapy for oligometastatic disease.
At the plenary session on Tuesday, Ludwig Chicago investigator Thomas Gajewski presented his team’s investigation of the factors that influence immune infiltration of tumors and the efficacy of immunotherapy, like gut microbes and variations in immune-regulatory genes. A bit later, Ludwig MIT’s Matthew Vander Heiden presented his team’s studies on how metabolic and nutritional constraints in different types of tissue influence the growth of tumors and where they tend to metastasize. His Ludwig MIT colleague Richard Hynes, meanwhile, discussed his lab’s examination of the unusual extracellular matrix (ECM) of tumor cells, how its component proteins influence cancer growth and metastasis and strategies for targeting the ECM for diagnosis and therapy. Finally, on Wednesday, Yibin Kang reported his team’s research on the crosstalk between key molecular signaling pathways, tumor cells and their stroma—or supportive tissue—in the formation of metastatic niches in the bone.
And all this is just a sliver of the exciting research—and new discoveries—shared in New Orleans by Ludwig researchers. Check out the following hyperlinks for a full list of Ludwig-affiliated presentations and posters at the AACR Annual Meeting.
This article appeared in the May 2022 issue of Ludwig Link. Click here to download a copy (PDF, 2MB).