As the founder of Project GENIE (Genomics Evidence Neoplasia Information Exchange), the AACR is working to deliver on the promise of precision medicine. Built upon data sharing between the world’s leading cancer centers, AACR Project GENIE is an international cancer registry that aggregates clinical-grade tumor sequencing data with limited clinical data to build virtual cohorts of patients on whom detailed outcomes data can be retrieved. By offering insights into the relationships between genotype and patient outcome, the project powers translational and clinical research—facilitating the development of new therapies, informing the design of better clinical trials, and improving clinical decision-making for the benefit of all cancer patients.
The increasing momentum of AACR Project GENIE over the past year was reflected in the number of institutions expressing interest in joining the consortium, which more than doubled in size in 2018 as 11 new participating organizations joined the eight founding participants (right). The expansion of the consortium was accompanied by an expansion of the data set, as releases in January and July increased the number of sequenced tumors by more than 50 percent. AACR Project GENIE is now one of the largest fully public cancer genomic datasets, with more than 48,000 de-identified genomic records covering more than 80 cancer types.
In February 2018—one year after the release of the first data set—members of the consortium published a paper in the journal JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics that detailed the genesis of the project and shared the perspectives of the founding institutions. The paper, which was intended to share best practices and serve as a guide for other organizations who wish to develop their own genomic data-sharing consortia, was among the most read articles in the journal in July 2018.
AACR Project GENIE is also supporting the “2020 by 2020” Presidential initiative and collaboration. Announced in March 2018, this initiative from AACR President (2017-2018) Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, FAACR, will perform genomic sequencing of both tumor and normal tissue from 2,020 consented African-American cancer patients by the year 2020 and aggregate this valuable information with clinical data from these patients. The genomic data will be made publicly available through the Project GENIE registry and the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN) to benefit researchers who are studying cancer and cancer outcomes in African-American populations with the goal of addressing this serious public health challenge.
One of the major goals of Dr. Caligiuri’s presidential year was to confront and overcome the challenges of cancer health disparities. A major step toward reaching this ambitious goal was the formation of an AACR Think Tank on Cancer Health Disparities. Under the leadership of chair John D. Carpten, PhD, and cochairs Marcia R. Cruz-Correa, MD, PhD, Brian M. Rivers, PhD, MPH, and Sanya A. Springfield, PhD, the think tank met in Washington, DC, in October to address three critical elements of the cancer disparities problem: 1) increasing participation of underrepresented/minority patients in clinical trials; 2) developing key resources to accelerate cancer health disparities research; and 3) training the cancer health disparities workforce to meet emerging needs. Participants in the think tank meeting included James W. Lillard, PhD, MBA, associate dean for Research at Morehouse School of Medicine and principal investigator of the 2020 by 2020 Initiative; and 2018-2019 AACR President Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR.
|AACR Project GENIE|
|Founding Consortium Participants|
|Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts|
|Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus, Paris-Villejuif, France|
|The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, on behalf of the Center for Personalized Cancer Treatment, Utrecht, The Netherlands|
|Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York|
|Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas|
|Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, Tennessee|
|New Consortium Participants|
|Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England|
|Duke University (Duke Cancer Institute), Durham, North Carolina|
|Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia University, New York, New York|
|Swedish Cancer Institute, Seattle, Washington|
|Providence Cancer Institute, Portland, Oregon|
|Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, North Carolina|
|The University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chicago, Illinois|
|University of California-San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Francisco, California|
|Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology, Barcelona, Spain|
|Yale Cancer Center, New Haven, Connecticut|
Recognizing the vital role that pathologists play in delivering timely and accurate diagnoses to support the most effective treatment decisions, the AACR convened a Pathology Task Force in December to identify ways the association can better serve the field. Chaired by Massimo F. Loda, MD, the task force gathered thought leaders and stakeholders in academia, industry, and government to survey the challenges facing the field of cancer pathology and to develop innovative solutions to those challenges for the benefit of cancer patients.
In February 2016, the AACR convened a three-day Cancer Prevention Summit, bringing together nearly 70 scientists, clinicians, patient advocates, and funders to set a course for future efforts in cancer prevention research. In December, under the leadership of chairs Ernest T. Hawk, MD, MPH, and Scott M. Lippman, MD, the summit participants published a white paper in the AACR journal Cancer Prevention Research titled “Shaping the Future of Cancer Prevention—A Roadmap for Advancing Science and Public Health.”
While the AACR’s PCWG works to address the scientific challenges facing the pediatric cancer field, the group also addresses the logistical challenges that hinder progress for children with cancer. One such challenge was a lack of coordination between two of the largest pediatric cancer drug development consortia, the NCI Pediatric Preclinical Testing Consortium (PPTC) in the United States and the Innovative Therapies for Children with Cancer (ITCC) Pediatric Preclinical Proof-of-Concept Program (P4) in Europe. These consortia bring together scientists, clinicians, regulators, and patients to develop novel pediatric cancer therapies. To maximize the impact of critical research resources, it is imperative that the organizations avoid duplication of effort. Leveraging its international membership and the AACR’s reputation as an honest broker, PCWG began acting as an intermediary between these consortia in 2018, aligning their efforts to accelerate the pace of progress against pediatric cancer. At the AACR Annual Meeting 2018, the PCWG brought the consortia together for a special session to discuss the preclinical models they have developed, the therapeutic agents they are currently testing, and opportunities to collaborate for the benefit of pediatric cancer patients worldwide.
The mission of the AACR’s Radiation Science and Medicine Working Group (RSM) is to foster the application of radiation science and medicine to understand and treat cancer malignancies. In June, RSM advanced that mission by hosting a think tank on Illuminating Technological Advances and Challenges in Precision Radiotherapies. Supported in part by Bayer Pharmaceuticals, the think tank convened more than 30 experts in all areas of radiation science—including radiobiology, medical physics, and nuclear medicine—to highlight current and emerging radiotherapy technologies, address the critical needs of the field, and discuss the most effective approaches to improving patient care.
Preventing and curing cancer through collaboration is one of the pillars of the AACR mission, and RSM joined forces with two other scientific organizations in 2018 to advance that mission:
At the AACR Annual Meeting 2018, MEG worked with the AACR Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Council to present an inaugural joint symposium on “Aggressive Cancer Phenotypes in Racial/Ethnic Minority Populations: Opportunities and Challenges.” Moderated by MICR Council Chair-Elect Laura Fejerman, PhD, and MEG Steering Committee Chair Melissa L. Bondy, PhD, the session addressed the greater susceptibility of different minority populations to aggressive forms of cancer.
The AACR continued its long-standing support of students interested in careers in science at the Annual Meeting 2018. At the annual Special Program for High School Students, nearly 300 students were welcomed to Chicago to participate in interactive lectures on cancer development and prevention and to tour the exhibits and poster sessions. In addition, 11 high school students presented their own research and received feedback on their projects from AACR scientist mentors.
More than 200 undergraduate students also attended the AACR Annual Meeting to participate in the Thirteenth Annual Undergraduate Student Caucus and Poster Competition. The poster competition featured presentations from more than 115 students, whose research projects were evaluated by leading AACR members. Presenters of the most highly-rated posters were recipients of the inaugural Margaret Foti Foundation Undergraduate Prizes for Cancer Research. Funded by AACR Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), the prizes encourage college students who are interested in science to pursue careers in cancer research.
The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) is a nonprofit member organization that works to enhance the quality of the postdoctoral experience in the United States. As a sustaining member of the NPA, the AACR expresses its appreciation for the vital contributions of postdoctoral scholars to the cancer research enterprise and demonstrates its commitment to expanding the opportunities available to postdocs through education and training.
In September, the AACR participated in National Postdoc Appreciation Week activities by hosting two Cancer Careers Clinics at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. AACR staff provided participants with advice on navigating the interview and negotiation processes, managing the transition to a full-time position, and submitting successful publications and grant applications.
As an ACCME-accredited provider, the AACR offered CME credit at 20 different meetings in 2018, including ten focused special conferences, three joint conferences, two educational workshops, two joint providership activities, and the AACR Annual Meeting. AACR journals provided another educational resource, offering credit to investigators for reviewing manuscripts. A total of 3,611 researchers and clinicians claimed CME credit from the AACR in 2018, taking advantage of opportunities to maintain their professional competence and incorporate new knowledge into their practices.
Mya Roberson, MSPH
AACR Associate Member
Past AACR Undergraduate Scholar
Mya Roberson is an Associate Member of the AACR and a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is studying spatial and temporal patterns in racial disparities in cancer outcomes from a health services perspective, and she hopes to eliminate inequities that exist in breast and gynecologic cancer outcomes between black and white women in North Carolina and nationally.
In September 2017, Mya attended her first conference as a graduate student. She received an AACR Scholar-in-Training Award, which enabled her to present her work at the AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved. She discussed her transformative experience at the conference in an op-ed published in The New York Times. Prior to that, Mya attended the 2015 and 2016 AACR Annual Meetings as an AACR Undergraduate Scholar:
“I am thankful for this life-altering organization and for its commitment to fostering the development of very early career scientists, particularly those from demographic backgrounds underrepresented in cancer research. The AACR has changed my life, and now I will go on to change others.”
While acknowledging the rich history of its special conference series, the AACR also advanced its meetings program into new scientific areas in 2018. One of the scientific priorities identified by the AACR Board of Directors in its Vision 2020 Strategic Plan was an expanded focus on hematological malignancies. To realize this critical vision, the AACR partnered with the organizers of the International Conference on Malignant Lymphoma (ICML)—held semiannually in Lugano, Switzerland, since 1981—to bring a version of this premier forum for malignant lymphoma research to the United States. In June, the inaugural AACR International Meeting on “Advances in Malignant Lymphoma” was held in Boston. Under the leadership of Scientific Committee chair Ari M. Melnick, MD, the meeting employed a unique, discussion-driven format to discuss recent advances and emerging areas of lymphoma research and their potential for transforming patient care. Going forward, the meeting will be held annually and will alternate between the United States and Switzerland, ensuring that hematological malignancies remain a critical priority for the cancer research community.
Nmazuo W. Ozuah, MD
AACR/ASCO Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop Participant
Nmazuo W. Ozuah, MD is an Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Hematology-Oncology, at Baylor College of Medicine and a member of the Global Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Excellence (HOPE) program at Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers. His main interest is improving treatment outcomes for children with cancer in resource-limited settings, in particular Sub-Saharan Africa.
In July, Dr. Ozuah participated in the 2018 AACR/ASCO Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop, an intensive one-week program that teaches clinical fellows and junior faculty clinical researchers the essentials of effective clinical trial designs of therapeutic interventions in the treatment of cancer. At the end of the workshop, Dr. Ozuah was awarded the Daniel D. Von Hoff Innovator Award. Named for founding Workshop Director and AACR Past President Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, FAACR, the award recognizes the most innovative and impactful protocol developed by a workshop participant. Dr. Ozuah’s award-winning protocol—addressing the feasibility of dose-intensive response-based chemotherapy for pediatric Hodgkin's lymphoma in Malawi—has the potential to profoundly impact pediatric care in Africa:
“The AACR/ASCO Vail workshop greatly exceeded my expectations. No training to date has better equipped me for a career in clinical research. The career guidance and networking opportunities through the outstanding course faculty continued past the workshop, further demonstrating a strong commitment to the successful careers of budding investigators in oncology research. I feel empowered to translate the lessons learned into clinical research protocols that will ultimately improve the prognosis of children with cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this awesome workshop.”