Peter Mac News

Peter Mac presents at prestigious AACR Annual Meeting

12 April 2024


Several Peter Mac researchers have shared their latest findings in front of a record attendance at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in San Diego this week.

The five-day meeting from 5-10 April brought together more than 23,000 of the best minds in cancer research from institutions all over the world and provided scientists, clinicians, other health care professionals, survivors, patients, and advocates with an opportunity to share the latest advances in cancer science and medicine.

Researchers from Peter Mac were once again present to showcase our high-level research across clinical, translational and laboratory research.

In a session dedicated to San Antonio Breast Cancer Updates, Professor Sherene Loi, Medical Oncologist and Group Leader at Peter Mac, provided attendees with a summary of the CheckMate 7FL study that she led.

The global study investigated the addition of a type of immunotherapy called nivolumab to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (i.e., chemo given prior to other treatments) and adjuvant endocrine therapy in patients with high-risk, estrogen receptor (ER)-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative primary breast cancer.

This treatment strategy could prove to be a major change in the way we treat certain types of breast cancer patients, particularly for young women.

“The results of the trial show that the addition of nivolumab resulted in an increase in pathological complete response rates never before seen in this subtype of breast cancer and helped us understand which patients would benefit most from having nivolumab added to their treatment regimen,” Professor Loi said.

“We will continue to follow these patients to determine the long-term effects of treatment.”

Associate Professor Luc Furic presented on work his lab conducted on a potential new cancer treatment that inhibits RNA polymerase I, an enzyme cancer cells use to survive.

The study used cancer models and demonstrated that the inhibitor known as PMR-116 significantly reduced cancer growth in a wide range of tumour models. PMR-116 is being tested in a phase I clinical trial in Australia to determine the optimal dose to treat solid tumours.

Professor Riccardo Dolcetti presented an oral abstract on research he is conducting to find better ways to treat colorectal cancers. Immunotherapy is not effective against most colorectal cancers due to the limited ability of these tumours to be recognised by patients’ immune system.

“By using a novel approach, we have identified new colorectal cancer specific antigens that were selected for their ability to stimulate potent anti-tumour immune responses,” Professor Dolcetti said.

“We have also developed novel immunotherapies targeting these antigens that were investigated in preclinical models.

“These novel tumour antigens demonstrated significant therapeutic activity in preclinical models and the findings pave the way for the development of novel immunotherapeutic strategies to improve the management of colorectal cancers.”

Dr Julia Milne gave a presentation on her research focusing on cancer of the oesophagus, which aims to understand the molecular changes that make a normal cell become cancerous and how this might affect treatment options.

“There is a gene (SMAD4) that is often mutated in oesophageal cancer, but we don’t really know why this is important. My work has shown that SMAD4 controls the way cells make proteins,” Dr Milne said.

“SMAD4-deficient cells preferentially make proteins in one particular way and this results in them making more proteins that drive tumour formation.

“The tumour becomes dependent on a good supply of these proteins so if we can inhibit this type of protein synthesis using targeted therapies, we can selectively target SMAD4-deficient oesophageal cancers.”

The AACR Annual Meeting is considered the focal point of the cancer research community and consisted of more than 7,2000 abstracts, six plenary sessions, seven focused ‘advances’ sessions, more than 50 symposia, four clinical trial plenary sessions, more than a dozen forums and nearly 300 posters.