The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research hosted its second annual Scientific Symposium in New York City on March 3, 2020. Over 100 scientists attended the meeting, which showcased the exciting and innovative science being advanced by Mark Foundation investigators. Titia de Lange, PhD, Leon Hess Professor and Director of the Anderson Center for Cancer Research at Rockefeller University, delivered an enlightening keynote address about the role of telomeres in cancer and how telomere crisis may be an important source of genome instability. Participants networked and connected for potential collaborations during lunch and breaks with a backdrop of sweeping cityscapes viewed through the panoramic windows of the New York Academy of Sciences.
“The scientific symposium was a spectacular success, with exceptional presentations, superb interactive discussions, and lots of informal interactions and brainstorming by leaders and emerging leaders in the field,” said Ross Levine, Chair of the foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee. Alex Knaster, founder of The Mark Foundation, and Michele Cleary, CEO, attended and made opening remarks discussing the mission of the foundation and its rapid growth over the past year. “The work presented at the symposium exemplifies The Mark Foundation’s diverse scientific portfolio, which covers the entire spectrum of basic, translational, and clinical research and highlights progress across many cancer types,” said Becky Bish, Senior Scientific Director and coordinator of the day’s program.
In the opening session, entitled “Laying the Foundation”, Mark Foundation awardees demonstrated the importance of research into the underlying biology of cancer cells through their interdisciplinary work on topics including the interplay between radiotherapy and the immune system, the functional consequences of genetic variants in critical cancer-associated genes, and the dual role of the lymphatic system in anti-tumor immunity and cancer metastasis. Support for this type of fundamental research enables discoveries that point the way toward future cancer therapies.
The Mark Foundation’s growing emphasis on enabling therapeutic discovery was also on display throughout the symposium, especially during the session focused on translational research entitled “Bridging the Gap”. This session featured talks covering the development and evaluation of a number of therapeutic strategies including small molecule modulators of tumor antigen presentation, chemical biology tools to inhibit a class of enzymes involved in protein homeostasis, and a novel gene therapy for the in vivo transformation of T cells.
Aligned with The Mark Foundation’s emphasis on accelerating breakthroughs to patients, the symposium closed out with the session “Embracing the Patient”, which kicked off with a presentation from Ross Levine on the evolution of blood cancers from clonal hematopoiesis, a phenomenon that occurs at increased frequency with age. The session also included updates on a clinical study assessing the effects of diet on response to immunotherapy, a precision medicine platform for directly testing tumor cells from breast cancer patients to select optimal therapies, and machine learning-based recognition of DNA fragmentation patterns in blood samples to enable early cancer detection.