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AACR Grantees Take the Stage at the AACR Annual Meeting 2024

The AACR Annual Meeting 2024 took place April 5–10 at the San Diego Convention Center in California, with over 23,200 registrants, including more than 22,000 in-person attendees from 78 countries and territories participating in the meeting.

The meeting offered a diverse program featuring a record breaking 7,200 abstracts, as well as six plenary sessions, seven focused “Advances” sessions, more than 50 major symposium, four clinical trial plenary sessions, over a dozen forums and special sessions, and much more.

A number of past and present AACR grantees were invited to present their work as poster or oral presentations at the meeting. Here we highlight a selection of these exciting talks presented by early-career AACR grantees across the program. Virtual access to the meeting and recordings of these talks are available to all registrants through Wednesday, July 10, 2024. Online only registration is also still available to those who wish to access these recordings.

Saturday, April 6

Educational Session: Metabolic Dependencies and Adaptations in Cancer

One of the talks of this session which explored how metabolic dependencies and adaptations play a crucial role in cancer development and progression was given by Isaac Harris, PhD, recipient of the 2020 Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Career Development Award for Translational Breast Cancer Research. In his grant project, Dr. Harris had proposed to elucidate the extent to which circulating glutathione (GSH), the most abundant antioxidant in the body, supports triple negative breast cancer cell survival. In his talk, he highlighted how extracellular GSH catabolism supplies amino acids to tumors and indicated gamma-glutamyl transferase (the enzyme that initiates degradation of extracellular GSH), dipeptidases, and dipeptide transporters may be veritable drug targets moving forward. 

Sunday, April 7

Minisymposium: Algorithms, Platforms, and Emerging Concepts

Recipient of the 2023 Lustgarten Foundation-AACR Career Development Award for Pancreatic Cancer Research, in Honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ashley Kiemen, PhD, gave a talk titled “Three-dimensional immune atlas of pancreatic cancer precursor lesions reveals large inter- and intra-lesion heterogeneity” in which she outlined the use of the computer program CODA to map inflammation at pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia lesions. With her AACR grant, she is using CODA to three-dimensionally reconstruct maps of liver tissue from two-dimensional histological sections, with the goal of improving understanding of pancreatic cancer cell invasion in the liver and enhancing the ability to assess response to treatment.

Monday, April 8

Major Symposium: Chromatin and Cancer: From Mechanisms to Therapy

In this session, Yadira Soto-Feliciano, PhD, presented her work studying the molecular determinants of therapeutic response to Menin-MLL inhibition in leukemic cells. She highlighted results published in Cancer Discovery, where with her colleagues she showed that genetic disruption of the MLL3/4-UTX complex confers resistance to Menin-MLL inhibition in vitro, and that CDK6 inhibition in combination with Menin inhibition bypasses the treatment resistance in leukemia cells insensitive to Menin inhibitors. Dr. Soto-Feliciano was awarded the 2023 AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award to investigate how the adaptor protein Menin coordinates multi-protein complexes to translate chromatin signals into transcriptional outputs controlling leukemia cell states.

Major Symposium: AACR-Bayard D. Clarkson Symposium: Cellular Plasticity in Tumor Development, Metastasis and Response to Therapy

Two-time AACR grantee, Karuna Ganesh, MD, PhD, was awarded the Basic Cancer Research Fellowship in 2016. Through this research she showed that L1CAM is required for the regeneration of stem cells, in the context of both tissue repair and metastatic dissemination. She was then awarded the AACR NextGen Grant for Transformative Cancer Research in 2020 and began a new metastasis-focused project titled “Dissecting regenerative plasticity of metastasis stem cells.” Presenting research from this study that was published as a pre-print in bioRxiv last year, she showed in her talk how tumors progress via a conserved fetal progenitor state which accompanies loss of intestinal cell states and is followed by non-canonical differentiation into divergent squamous and neuroendocrine-like states.

Advances in Hematological Malignancies: Relapse after Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant

In this session postdoctoral research scientist, Nicoletta M. Cieri, MD, PhD, highlighted research which began when she received the 2020 AACR-Incyte Immuno-oncology Research Fellowship for her project, “Addressing AML with vaccine-induced polyclonal leukemia-specific T cells.” During her project she developed a pipeline to predict minor histocompatibility antigens (mHAgs) related with graft-vs-leukemia (GvL) response, which occurs when donor marrow recognizes antigens on the leukemic cell as foreign and initiates immune-mediated clearance, or graft-verus-host disease (GvHD), a systemic disorder which occurs when the donor marrow recognizes antigens on normal cells as foreign and attacks the recipient’s body cells. Her presentation outlined this pipeline and the validation of mHAgs related with GvL response in patients with AML.

Advances in Technologies: Systematic Functional Approaches for Understanding and Targeting Cancer

Alison M. Taylor, PhD, received the 2021 AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award for her project which sought to determine the role of chromosome 3 aneuploidy in lung squamous cell carcinoma. In this study she utilized a genetic engineering approach involving CRISPR and the addition of an artificial telomere to delete or duplicate chromosome 3p. Her talk, titled “Functional and Computational Approaches to Uncover Selection Advantages of Cancer Aneuploidy,” outlined how this same genetic engineering method can be applied across chromosomes. She also presented a new algorithm she developed, published in Nature, called BISCUT (Breakpoint Identification of Significant Undiscovered Targets) which can be used to identify points of both positive and negative selection of large chromosomal changes and aneuploidy in cancer.

Tuesday, April 9

Advances in Organ Site Research: Updates from SABCS 2023

A medical oncology fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Nolan Priedigkeit, MD, PhD, gave a talk outlining a method for discovering fusion RNAs in metastatic breast cancer and postulated how these fusion RNAs may be effective therapeutic targets moving forward. He was awarded the 2024 AACR-Conquer Cancer®, the ASCO Foundation Young Investigator Award for Translational Cancer Research for his project titled “Fusion RNAs as individualized therapeutic targets in advanced breast cancer.” In this project he hopes to define the translational significance of fusion RNAs in metastatic breast cancer and design, optimize and test fusion breakpoint RNA sensors to activate cytotoxic protein payloads in breast cancer models.  

Yadira Soto-Feliciano, PhD

AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award Lecture

The AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award comes with the opportunity for the grant recipient to present at the AACR Annual Meeting. In her second oral presentation of the meeting, the 2023 recipient of the award, Yadira Soto-Feliciano, PhD, gave her talk outlining the progress she has made in her project titled “Revealing Cancer Epigenomes Through the Lens of Chromatin Adaptor Proteins.”