Scientific Gatherings

The Power of Convening

We believe in bringing together scientists, clinicians, patients, advocates, funders, industry leaders and government officials to foster collaboration, accelerate the pace of innovation and bring new treatments to patients faster. We host annual scientific retreats, convene specialized workshops and partner with other leading brain tumor organizations to host coalition events. Here are examples:

Annual Scientific Meetings:

2008 Annual Scientific Meeting, Smithsonian Castle, National Mall, Washington, DC

This meeting focused on translating the recently published GBM genome into the clinic. The meeting was highlighted by talks from Dr. Francis Collins, former head of the National Human Genome Research Institute and now head of the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Lynda Chin, principal investigator for the GBM Cancer Genome Atlas Project; and Dr. Leroy Hood, systems biology pioneer who, with his colleagues at CalTech, created the technological foundation for the sciences of genomics and proteomics. Dr. Will Parsons from Baylor College of Medicine spoke on the recent discovery of IDH1 and the implications for ongoing brain tumor genomics research and treatment. There was a panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Susan Chang of UCSF, which included Drs. Alfred Yung of MD Anderson, David Parkinson, CEO of Nodality, Inc. and Philippe Bishop, VP of Clinical Development at Genentech, talking about the translation of the new GBM genomic information into the clinic. There was also a group discussion, moderated by Dr. David Agus of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, on the most current clinical approaches to treating GBM.

2009 Annual Scientific Meeting, Cavallo Point Lodge, Fort Baker/Sausalito, CA

This meeting, focused on the discovery and development of new therapies, started off with ABC2 CEO, Max Wallace, interviewing Dr. Anna Barker, Deputy Director of the National Cancer Institute, about new initiatives at the NCI. Dr. Ron DePinho from Harvard Medical School/Dana Farber Cancer Institute (now President of MD Anderson) and Dr. Tim Cloughesy from UCLA spoke on how we might best go forward from here. There were presentations from a panel of international pharmaceutical industry leaders, including Drs. Ira Mellman, VP of Research Oncology at Genentech, Georg Tersteppen, VP of Discovery Research at Siena Biotech, and Rob Macleod, Executive Director of Discovery Biology at Isis Pharmaceuticals; previews of exciting new treatment approaches; and a section on the role and function of tumor initiating stem cells. In the “Airgame” section of the meeting Dr. Harry Gruber, CEO of Tocagen, introduced the company’s novel viral therapy for GBM and Dr. Jim Olson from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center introduced a technology that has gone on to form the basis for PreSage Biosciences, an oncology company pioneering a novel approach to evaluating patient responses to drugs in clinical trials.

2010 Annual Scientific Meeting, Smithsonian Castle, National Mall, Washington, DC

Dr. Michel Prados, Director of Translational Research in Neuro-Oncology at UCSF and Dan Case’s original treating physician, opened the meeting talking about the clinical treatment of GBM, where we are and where we need to go. Following Dr. Prados’s remarks, the meeting focused on the molecular elucidation of tumors; new strategies and opportunities for targeting GBM; the integration of clinical genomics into the discovery and development of new therapies; and new initiatives in the development of preclinical animal models for GBM. Speakers included Drs. Neil Gibson, VP and CSO of Pfizer Oncology; Graeme Bilby, Global Head of Neuroscience for Novartis; David Schenkein, CEO of Agios Pharmaceuticals; and Stephen Friend, President, Co-Founder and Director of Sage BioNetworks. Dr. Karen Aboody of City of Hope Medical Center introduced an Airgame technology based on the ability of neural stem cells to home to tumors and invasive tumor cells. Dr. Aboody’s approach uses neural stem cells as delivery vehicles carrying therapeutic agents to the site of tumors with the goal of achieving greater treatment efficacy with lower toxicity.

2011 Annual Scientific Meeting, Cavallo Point Lodge, Fort Baker/Sausalito, CA

The meeting opened with ABC2 CEO Max Wallace interviewing Dr. Philippe Bishop, Genentech’s Vice President of Clinical Development and Global Head of their Angiogenesis Franchise, regarding issues related to getting cancer drugs approved both in the US and in Europe. Speakers then discussed mechanisms of resistance to targeted therapies; IDH1 as a new target for therapy (following up on the previous years’ talks by Drs. Will Parsons of Baylor and David Schenkein of Agios); different approaches to immune therapy; and ways to use combination therapy to address tumors. There were three Airgame talks. Dr. Greg Riggins from Johns Hopkins discussed the use of an already approved anti-parasitic drug, Mebendazole, to treat GBM; Dr. Harry Gruber of Tocagen followed up on his talk from two years before with an update on the clinical trials of Tocagen’s viral therapy for GBM; and Dr. Martin Brown, Director of Radiation and Cancer Biology at Stanford, presented late-breaking data on the use of a new compound targeting vasculogenesis as a way to significantly improve the results of radiotherapy in preventing recurrence of GBM.

2012 Annual Scientific Meeting, Cavallo Point Lodge, Fort Baker/Sausalito, CA

This meeting opened with Max Wallace interviewing Dr. Henry Brem, Director of the Department of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, followed by a talk from Dr. Patrick Wen, the Director of Neuro-Oncology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Corporate speakers included Drs. Bill Sellers, Vice President and Global Head of Oncology from Novartis, Sasha Kamb, Senior Vice President of Research at Amgen, Neil Gibson, Chief Scientific Officer of Regulus Therapeutics, and Sam Agresta, Senior Director of Clinical Development at Agios Pharmaceuticals. There was a discussion of blood-borne biomarkers led by Drs. Bob Carter of UCSD and Johann Skog of Exosome Diagnostics. Additionally, there were talks by Dr. Scott Pomeroy of Boston Children’s Hospital on the genetic regulation of pediatric medulloblastoma; Dr. Joseph Costello of UCSF on the use of Temodar in the treatment of lower grade gliomas; David Steinberg, partner at Pure Tech Ventures, on new models for funding life science discoveries; and Drs. Jeremy Rich, Cleveland Clinic, Bjorn Scheffler, University of Bonn and Luis Parada, UT Southwest Medical Center, discussing cancer stem cells.

2013 Annual Scientific Meeting, Nat’l Air & Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, VA

Our previous four scientific retreats featured a diverse mix of basic science, preclinical studies and clinical work. In this meeting we changed our approach and joined with the National Cancer Institute and its Brain Malignancy Steering Committee to convene a larger meeting focused on later stage drug development and novel clinical trial design. The meeting covered three topic areas: immune therapy and vaccines; the use of targeted therapies in adaptive clinical trials; and genomic tumor profiling as a basis for trial design and treatment decision making. Each of these areas represented a pivotal building block needed to advance personalized therapies for patients. The goals of the meeting were to create a set of plans to help clinicians understand the unique biological properties of a patient’s tumor; use that information to identify a therapy best suited to that patient; and then be able to modify that therapeutic approach as the tumor evolved in response to treatment. These plans would then be used in pilot adaptive combination therapy clinical trials; a new immune therapy approach would readied to move into the clinic; and in-depth genomic sequencing of tumor tissue would begin. These goals were all met and multiple follow-on projects are now underway.

2014 Annual Scientific Meetings, Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Bethesda, MD

Following on the success of the prior year’s joint meeting with the NCI, we partnered with the National Brain Tumor Society, the Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research & Information and the Society for Neuro-Oncology to form the Jumpstarting Brain Tumor Drug Development Coalition. To date, this group has hosted a pair of workshop meetings. The meetings recognized that one of the barriers to effective brain tumor treatment is the inability to know if a tumor is responding to treatment as measured by imaging. Another barrier is the lack of treatments that also alleviate or eliminate symptoms of brain tumors based on alternative endpoints.

The goal of the first workshop was to present the state of the field in imaging measurement of glioma progression and in response to drugs, to discuss emerging techniques and technologies in imaging and to discuss clinical trials designs involving various endpoints and drugs in newly diagnosed and recurrent glioma populations. Both the FDA and the NCI assisted in the planning of the meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting participants developed an action plan to advance the field.

The second endpoints workshop focused on the development and inclusion in clinical trials of alternative clinical endpoints such as quality of life, including those measured by patient-reported outcomes and objectively tested neuro-cognitive measures. After each of the two large group meetings there were subgroup meetings to further explore and refine the thoughts and recommendations generated. These efforts resulted in a new consensus protocol for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in brain tumor clinical trials. It was recommended that this become the new standardized approach to acquisition of imaging data in multi-center clinical trials in order to help better assess if a new treatment is effective against a brain tumor. This protocol was published in the journal Neuro-Oncology and is now in being adopted around the world.

Specialized Meetings:

2011 Meeting on Human Cytomegalovirus and Glioma, ABC2 Offices, Washington, DC

We worked with Dr. Charles Cobbs, neurosurgeon and researcher at California Pacific Medical Center, to organize a workshop on the role of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) in glioma. The purpose of the meeting was to reach a consensus on the role of HCMV in the pathology of gliomas and to clarify directions for future research. The meeting provided the opportunity for oncologists and virologists working in the field to freely discuss their most current data. The group first summarized data that describe how HCMV biology overlaps the key pathways of cancer. Based on the published data and ongoing research, the group reached a consensus that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that HCMV sequences and viral gene expression exist in most, if not all, malignant gliomas; that HCMV could modulate the malignant phenotype in glioblastomas by interacting in key signaling pathways; and that HCMV could serve as a novel target for a variety of therapeutic strategies. A paper entitled Consensus on the Role of Human Cytomegalovirus in Glioblastoma was published in the journal Neuro-Oncology, work in this space continues with a number of the meeting’s attendees as leaders in the field, and a clinical trial of a vaccine targeting HCMV antigens is currently underway.

2012 Meeting on Exosomes, Offices of Proskauer Rose LLP, New York City, NY

ABC2 worked with Drs. Fred Hochberg of Massachusetts General Hospital and Bob Carter of the University of California, to convene a meeting focused on tumor-based extracellular vesicles (exosomes) found in blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and their possible use as biomarkers for GBM. This meeting brought together researchers and clinicians from a number of academic medical centers as well as scientists from the specialized biotechnology company Exosome Diagnostics. After presentations by experts on exosome biology, the group agreed to form a consortium of 18 brain tumor centers to collect matched sets of CSF, blood and tumor tissue to enable a multi-center clinical study of the feasibility, sensitivity and specificity of exosome-based diagnostic tests centered on the detection of glioma-specific EGFRvIII. That research, led by Drs. Carter and Hochberg, is ongoing.

2013 Meeting on Low Grade Gliomas, Cavallo Point Lodge, Fort Baker/Sausalito, CA

We worked with Drs. Susan Chang and Joseph Costello from UCSF and Ken Aldape from MD Anderson to organize a meeting focused on low grade gliomas (e.g., oligodendrogliomas and non-anaplastic astrocytomas). Much like our annual scientific meetings, this meeting brought together experts from industry and academia, with attendees from the US, Canada and Europe. Dr. Mitchell Berger, Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at UCSF, led off the meeting, emphasizing the importance that he and other leaders in the field place on this subject. There were 19 presentations on topics including LGG biology, new preclinical models, diagnosis, imaging, treatment, unique clinical trial design and possible new therapeutic approaches. The participants developed new collaborative networks, shared unpublished data, explored new treatment paths and planned new work. An article on the meeting entitled "Where we are now? And Where are we going? A Report from the Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2) Low-Grade Glioma Research Workshop" was published in the journal Neuro-Oncology.