AACR Annual Meeting 2012: Concentrated delivery
CHICAGO—If there is one key thing on which the president of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the program chair for the AACR Annual Meeting 2012 wholeheartedly agree, it's that they suffer from no shortage of material.
In fact, it's safe to say that if temporary cloning were possible, they'd have offered that as a service so you could attend every last session.
"What is particularly challenging is the scope of the science. AACR is all things to all people, and we have to cover the most exciting activities over a very wide range of disciplines," says AACR's president, Dr. Judy E. Garber, who is director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "We end up with a meeting where you would literally like to go to every session, but you just can't."
That challenge isn't unique to AACR as an organization or to its annual meeting specifically, notes Dr. Benjamin G. Neel, the program committee chairperson for the AACR Annual Meeting 2012 and director of the Ontario Cancer Institute, as well as a senior scientist in the institute's Division of Stem Cell and Developmental Biology. But in oncology, he says, the level of that challenge is stepped up considerably and that is "thanks to the wisdom and hard work of generations of people worldwide who have supported cancer research and the knowledge gained in cancer biology and now translational cancer medicine."
The huge explosion in cancer knowledge over just the past decade, Neel says, makes planning an event like this a process that is both encouraging and intimidating, even with a venue as big as Chicago's McCormick Place, where the event will be held March 31 to April 4.
"We're a very small group of people taking an extraordinary amount of useful information and trying to figure out just what to put into the annual meeting so that we get to people what they really need, because there is no way to fit all of it into a few days," he says. "One of the things that struck me as I got together with Judy in January to go over where we were at with the meeting preparations is that there are so many areas of cancer research and treatment that I don't normally pay attention to, and now I'm looking forward to hearing all of it. But, you know, there is no way possible that any human can go to all of these sessions. That's simultaneously bracing, exciting and disappointing to me."
If nothing else, Neel says, it's a great reason for himself and other attendees to obtain the webcasts of the meeting, "so that we can not only pick the sessions that we most need or want to attend in person but then also stay up late and spend another couple weeks after the meeting going over the things we couldn't see firsthand."
Accommodating new knowledge and keeping up with the needs of AACR members and others who attend the meeting has meant some changes this year, some of them entirely new features in the program.
"One of the big things we did was to reorganize the meeting a bit to add more sessions," Garber says. "We've had sessions on current concept and controversies in organ site research in the past, but there have been a lot of emerging themes in targeted therapies and diagnosis in the past several years, so we added an entire program on current concepts and controversies in therapeutics, diagnostics and prevention as well."
Also, AACR chose this year's meeting to pay special attention to the field of immune therapy in cancer. "We have an entire major symposium on immune therapy and I think that's very timely because the first two immune-based approaches for cancer were approved in the past year," Neel notes. "Also, one of the things we really wanted to emphasize is the need to begin to rationally combine targeted drug therapies and immune-based therapies to get to increased survival rates and more durable cures."
Moreover, there are more presentations dealing with pediatric cancers this year and an entire major symposium—the AACR/ASCO Presidential Symposium—dedicated to new insights in pediatric oncology.
Another area of special attention this year, Garber and Neel say, are talks dealing with regulatory science issues.
"One of the newest tracks at the meeting is on regulatory science, something we thought was important with various groups working with the FDA on all these targeted therapies and biomarkers to ensure processes are clearer, safer and more productive from the industry and inventory points of view so that they can positively impact large groups of people," Garber says.
Neel anticipates that those who attend the 2012 AACR meeting will be pleased with the mix of speakers. He acknowledges that a frequent comment made by attendees of past events has been the perception that "the same old people are speaking all of the time." But Neel says there is a good mix of old faces and new ones this year. He also says that the 2012 meeting may very well have the largest number of younger investigators coming to the meeting for the first time.
"We've got a range of what has been done as well as what is being done and what will be done in the future," he says. "This is a very large meeting and it really runs the gamut from basic discovery-based lab findings to therapeutics in the clinic."
Neel says the AACR is trending ahead of last year's registration numbers so far, but he notes there is no way to know whether they will meet or surpass last year's attendance until after the convention is underway, given that there will be on-site registration.
In any case, Garber encourages cancer researchers to attend for the sake of doing better science—if not this year, then in the future.
"This is the largest conference for cancer scientists in the world. Communication among different disciplines has really changed, and with translational medicine and the like, people have come to realize that you cannot work in your own little bubble anymore," she says. "Basic scientists, clinical scientists and translational scientists have to work together for cancer research to move forward and go into the clinic, because they're all tied together more and more as greater progress is made. This annual meeting is a great opportunity to get outside of your area a bit and find out what new research touches upon your own discipline and can enhance your own work. The annual meeting is really the cross-fertilization center and a really efficient way to pick up new knowledge and make important personal connections with people in your own areas and other areas of cancer research."
(More show-related content is below, and for even more pre-show coverage, including photos of Chicago, what to do there, and additional AACR news, you can click here to open up that additional material in a new browser window)
Keeping up with AACR
On their website: www.aacr.org
On Twitter: @AACR or https://twitter.com/aacr
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aacr.org
(Note: All photos on this web page are from the AACR Annual Meeting 2011)
Honoring scientific achievement
PHILADELPHIA—Since 1961, the AACR has presented more than 278 prizes, awards and lectureships to recognize the scientific achievements of scientists and physicians who collectively have made significant contributions to the understanding, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cancer. Following are the awards and lectureships to be presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012:
AACR Margaret Foti Award—Honors an individual for leadership and extraordinary achievement in cancer research.
AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research—Honors an individual who has made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work.
AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship—Recognizes an individual scientist whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the detection, diagnosis, treatment or prevention of cancer and who embodies the dedication of the princess to multinational collaborations.
AACR Team Science Award—Acknowledges and catalyzes the growing importance of interdisciplinary teams to the understanding of cancer and/or the translation of research discoveries into clinical cancer applications.
Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research—Given to a scientist of international renown who has made a major scientific discovery in basic cancer research or who has made significant contributions to translational cancer research.
AACR Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award—Presented for outstanding achievement in clinical cancer research.
AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention—Recognizes outstanding research accomplishments in cancer epidemiology, biomarkers and prevention.
AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research—Intended to give recognition to a young investigator (not more than 40 years of age) on the basis of meritorious achievement in cancer research.
AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research—Given for outstanding, novel and significant chemistry research that has led to important contributions to the fields of basic cancer research, translational cancer research, cancer diagnosis, the prevention of cancer or the treatment of patients with cancer.
AACR G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award—Given for outstanding recent accomplishments in basic cancer research.
AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award—Honors and provides incentive to investigators relatively early in their careers (not more than 50 years of age) who are engaged in the practice of medicine and who reside in the Americas, for research that has made, or promises to soon make, a notable contribution to improved clinical care in the field of cancer.
AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship—Awarded to an outstanding scientist who has made meritorious contributions to the field of cancer research and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered the advancement of minority investigators in cancer research.
AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship—Provided to an outstanding scientist who has made meritorious contributions to the field of cancer research and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered the advancement of women in science.
AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship—Intended to recognize and present outstanding science that has the potential to inspire new thinking and perspectives on the etiology, progression and prevention of cancer.
Working for a living
CHICAGO—Building on the success of previous AACR Cancer and Biomedical Research Career Fairs, the 2012 Career Fair at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012 is intended to provide many opportunities for both job seekers and employers. This annual event brings job seekers with highly specialized scientific skills—such as basic and translational researchers, clinicians and epidemiologists—together with employers representing academia, cancer centers, government and industry.
The research career fair will be held on Saturday, March 31, and some 7,500 scientists are expected to attend the event.
The AACR also wants to draw attention to its "improved and unique career and job posting center," the AACR CancerCareers.Org Center. "As an employer, you will have the opportunity to bring your scientific job openings to the attention of thousands of the world's most brilliant minds in various scientific fields such as basic, translational, epidemiologic and behavioral research," AACR notes. "As a cancer biomedical researcher, you will have the ability to utilize AACR's CancerCareers.Org Center in your search for scientific career opportunities."
Upcoming AACR Annual Meetings
April 6-10, 2013
April 5-9, 2014
April 18-22, 2015
April 16-20, 2016
Major symposia at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012
Plenary sessions at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012
Sunday, April 1
The Cancer Biology Revolution: From Concept to Clinic
Monday, April 2
Tumor Heterogeneity: Challenges and Therapeutic Opportunities
Tuesday, April 3
Immune Therapies: The Future Is Now
Wednesday, April 4
Pathway-Targeted Therapeutics: Coming of Age
AACR Annual Meeting 2012 forums
(For more pre-show coverage, including photos of Chicago, what to do there, and additional AACR news, click here.)