CHICAGO – During the all-virtual 2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo, leading scientific experts will dive into the groundbreaking advances that are the future of cancer care. One plenary session will focus on the cutting-edge treatment known as T cell therapy, while another will showcase recent discoveries about tumor metabolism that could lead to new, more effective cancer drugs.

Expanding the Reach of T Cell Therapy

T cell therapies train the immune system to target and destroy tumor cells, and have emerged in recent years as a promising alternative to chemotherapy and radiation. Immunotherapy has fewer side effects and has the potential to greatly increase patient survival rates, as T cells can live in the blood for years after a patient’s initial treatment. So far, however, T cell therapy has only received Food and Drug Administration approval for blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, and has shown less success with solid tumors.

In the plenary session, “T Cell Therapies for Cancer: CAR-Ts and Beyond,” Catherine Bollard, MD, MBChB, will highlight the ongoing work to improve T cell therapy for solid tumors such as breast and lung cancer, particularly in patients who have relapsed and/or are not responding to conventional treatment.

“We are aiming for a time where patients will no longer need chemotherapy and radiation, and instead will only receive targeted therapies such as antibody and cell-based therapies that specifically kill the cancer cells without killing the healthy cells,” said Dr. Bollard, who is the director of the Center for Cancer Care and Immunology and the Program for Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy at the Children’s National Research Institute in Washington, D.C.

In addition to discussing the latest developments with T cell therapies, she will provide an in-depth overview of the methods used to engineer them, from use of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) and artificial T cell receptors to ex vivo expansion of T cells targeting tumor proteins.

Understanding What Fuels Cancer Growth

Enlisting T cells in the battle against cancer isn’t the only alternative to chemotherapy and radiation therapy on the horizon. Over the last 20 years, Ralph DeBerardinis, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Genetics and Metabolism at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, has found that cancer growth is driven in part by metabolic changes in tumor cells that provide better access to, and utilization of, key nutrients. In other words, he’s found that the way cancer feeds itself is different from the way normal tissue does. In the plenary session, “Metabolic Reprogramming in Human Cancer: Insights Into Mechanisms and Opportunities for New Therapies,” Dr. DeBerardinis will discuss his efforts to understand cancer’s metabolic differences—and how this could pave the way for better treatments.

As part of this discussion, he will explain the techniques scientists use when analyzing cancer cell metabolism. One of these methods, stable isotope tracing, involves infusing tumors with labeled nutrients, and has allowed researchers to determine how different tumor metabolic activities correlate with patient outcomes. This insight, in turn, could inform the development of new cancer fighting strategies.

“By analyzing metabolic properties of tumors, we hope that we will identify predictive features that correlate with the aggressiveness of the disease and possibly even identify reprogrammed pathways that are driving cancer progression and could be targeted with therapies,” said Dr. DeBerardinis.

Additional cancer research that will be presented at the 2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting includes a study that analyzed the success rate of a fecal immunochemical test for colorectal cancer screening. The study found that this noninvasive test could reduce the need for colonoscopies and improve patient outcomes by detecting colorectal cancer early.

Session Information

AACC Annual Scientific Meeting registration is free for members of the media. Reporters can register online here:

Cancer Therapies

Session 13001: T Cell Therapies for Cancer: CAR-Ts and Beyond

Session 12001: Metabolic Reprogramming in Human Cancer: Insights into Mechanisms and Opportunities for New Therapies

Abstract B-331: Serum Based Multiplex Protein Assay for Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer and Precancerous Lesions in a FIT Positive Population

About the 2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo

The AACC Annual Scientific Meeting offers 5 days packed with opportunities to learn about exciting science from December 13-17, all available on an online platform. This year, there is a concerted focus on the latest updates on testing for COVID-19, including a talk with current White House Coronavirus Task Force testing czar, Admiral Brett Giroir. Plenary sessions include discussions on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve patient outcomes, new therapies for cancer, creating cross-functional diagnostic management teams, and accelerating health research and medical breakthroughs through the use of precision medicine.

At the virtual AACC Clinical Lab Expo, more than 170 exhibitors will fill the digital floor with displays and vital information about the latest diagnostic technology, including but not limited to SARS-CoV-2 testing, mobile health, molecular diagnostics, mass spectrometry, point-of-care, and automation.

About AACC

Dedicated to achieving better health through laboratory medicine, AACC brings together more than 50,000 clinical laboratory professionals, physicians, research scientists, and business leaders from around the world focused on clinical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, mass spectrometry, translational medicine, lab management, and other areas of progressing laboratory science. Since 1948, AACC has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing programs that advance scientific collaboration, knowledge, expertise, and innovation. For more information, visit