Session 13 – Advances in Cancer Immunotherapy
Date: 24 July (Friday) 14:00 – 15:30 (GMT+8)
Venue: 701EF, 7F, TaiNEX2 / Online event platform
Professor Jennifer Wargo’s career commitment is to advance the understanding and treatment of disease through science and has made groundbreaking discoveries in melanoma and other cancers that have been paradigm changing. After completing her medical degree, she entered surgical residency training at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts where she became interested in the biology and treatment of cancer. During her training, she completed two fellowships in Surgical Oncology with a focus on immunotherapy for cancer. The Division of Surgical Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital recruited Dr. Wargo in July 2008 where she headed an active research laboratory focusing on melanoma tumorigenesis and immunotherapy.
In September 2013, Dr. Wargo joined the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to help lead the Melanoma Moon Shot program. With a joint appointment in Surgical Oncology and Genomic Medicine, she continues her critical research to better understand responses to therapy and develop novel strategies to combat resistance. This includes her groundbreaking recent work elucidating the role of the gut microbiome in shaping responses to immunotherapy in patients with melanoma and a clinical trial underway exploring optimal methods to manipulate the gut microbiome to enhance responses to cancer therapy. With the success of this research, Dr. Wargo has started a microbiome and translational research program at MD Anderson Cancer Center called PRIME TR. She is a recognized as one of the international leaders in cancer research, and leads innovative efforts globally.
Speech title & Synopsis
We have made major progress in the treatment of melanoma and other cancers through the use of immunotherapy, however the majority of patients do not respond and novel strategies to enhance responses are needed. Tumor genomics and microenvironmental factors play a role, as does overall host immunity. One area that is gaining attention is the microbiome. Living organisms are host to trillions of microorganisms that help modulate normal physiologic functions, including immunity. Disruption of the delicate balance of these microbes may also be associated with disease. There is an increasing appreciation of the role of microbes in cancer. This includes in tumors, where microbes may exist and may influence therapy response. It also includes the gut microbiome, which has been shown to shape host immunity and may also shape responses to cancer immunotherapy. This is true in the case of stem cell transplant for hematologic malignancies, and the gut microbiome has also been shown to influence responses to cancer immunotherapy. Though original data was mainly in pre-clinical models, there is now data in numerous clinical cohorts regarding differential gut microbiome signatures in responders versus non-responders to immunotherapy. This has important implications, as the gut microbiome could potentially be used as a biomarker of response to immunotherapy. In addition, the gut microbiome may be modulated to enhance responses to immunotherapy, and several clinical trials incorporating this approach are now underway. These data have major implications, as we must consider other factors that impact the microbiome when considering cancer therapy, such as antibiotics, diet, and probiotics. It is only through such approaches that we will realize precision cancer immunotherapy.