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PICI Network Researchers Featured at Cancer Research UK Brain Tumour Conference #CRUKBrain22

Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI) Network investigators will present the latest findings in brain tumor research at the 2022 Cancer Research UK Brain Tumour Conference, Sept. 5-7 in London.

Michelle Monje, MD, PhD (Twitter: @michelle_monje), of Stanford Medicine and Hideho Okada, MD, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) are among the international luminaries highlighting immunotherapy’s role in the treatment of pediatric and adult patients with brain tumors.

Ongoing research is underway to improve long-term responses in children, Dr. Monje recently shared with The Washington Post. Recent developments are providing a roadmap and reason for hope.

“These CAR T cells are so specific, they just go into the tumors,” she said. “We see a response within weeks of their getting so much better symptomatically. We’ve seen kids go from wheelchairs to walking in two weeks. Although the cancer came back, three of the first four kids we published on had a great therapeutic response.”

Her lab at Stanford studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms of postnatal neurodevelopment. This includes microenvironmental influences on neural precursor cell fate choice in normal neurodevelopment and in disease states. As a practicing neurologist and neuro-oncologist, she is particularly interested in the roles for neural precursor cell function and dysfunction in the origins of pediatric brain tumors and the consequences of cancer treatment. 

Dr. Monje, who also is one of three members of the conference scientific committee, will deliver the Sept. 7 daily welcome and present during the following two sessions.

Synaptogenesis and Brain Cancer
Sept. 5, 1:15-3:25 p.m. British Summer Time (BST)

Communication between neurons and brain cancer cells, both in primary gliomas and brain metastases, is a fundamental component of brain tumor pathophysiology. Neuronal activity drives brain tumor growth through secreted growth factors and direct electrochemical synaptic communication. On the other hand, brain tumors influence neuronal function, increasing neuronal activity and modulating the function of the circuits into which cancer cells structurally and electrically integrate. Understanding the two-way interactions between nervous system and cancer cells could improve understanding of brain tumor initiation and progression, and identify new targets for therapy.

The Great Debate: Early Detection will Never Work in Brain Tumors
Sept. 7, 1:50-2:40 p.m. BST

Early detection provides a major opportunity for improved outcomes in many hard-to-treat cancers but remains exceptionally challenging for brain tumors, as patients often present with non-specific symptoms that are commonly associated with less serious conditions. As new opportunities emerge to identify high risk populations, and technological advances are enabling the development of less invasive detection and monitoring strategies, perhaps this paradigm needs shifting?

Dr. Okada and his team at Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Care Center at UCSF were among the first researchers to discover cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes in glioma-associated and glioma-specific neoantigens, and found critical roles for the integrin receptor known as very late activation antigen (VLA)-4 in facilitating entry of CTLs to the brain tumor site. Dr. Okada has translated these discoveries into novel vaccine and immune-gene therapy clinical studies in adult and pediatric patients with brain tumors.

Dr. Okada will present during the following session.

Neuro-immunology and Therapeutic Opportunities
Sept. 6, 10:45 a.m.-12:40 p.m. BST

Immunotherapy holds great promise as a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of patients with brain tumors but many aspects of the unique immunological and microenvironmental status of the brain remain poorly understood. For example, elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying nervous and immune system interactions, how these are co-opted in brain tumors and identifying the optimal targets of immunotherapies, such as CAR T cells, can lead to the development of novel immunotherapy strategies for patients with brain tumors and provide insight into the immune mechanisms that mediate responses and resistance to immunotherapy.

Please note that all events listed are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, visit the conference agenda. Follow the meeting live on Twitter using the hashtag #CRUKBrain22.