Elaine Mardis on AACR20 and the future of cancer research

Written by Rachel Jenkins, Future Science Group

Recently, our sister site Biotechniques spoke with Elaine Mardis (President of the American Association for Cancer Research; AACR) about the recent and upcoming AACR Virtual Annual Meeting I and II (27–29 April 2020 and 22–24 June 2020).

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In the interview, Mardis discussed the challenges associated with moving the meeting to an online virtual format and what she has learnt from the experience.

I think probably the most difficult thing was quite simply making the decision that we weren’t going to have an in-person meeting in San Diego. We asked the AACR board of directors to take all the different angles into consideration during a virtual online meeting and make that decision, which was unanimous. It was done with respect to the people who attend our meeting every year physically, in excess of 22,000 individuals from all the different spheres of the cancer research and cancer clinical translation world.

There was a small video that was put together by Paul Driscoll at AACR that showed pictures of me throughout my year of presidency that we watched that after the virtual annual meeting was over last week. It really reminded me of how much I missed the interpersonal interactions. It’s just hard to replace that with a screen in front of you. I think that is the part that everybody agrees they miss.

In addition, Mardis also had some interesting insights into what areas of cancer research she thinks offer a lot of promise in the future.

The earlier we detect cancers, of course, we know the likelier the outcomes are to be good, not only in terms of alleviating the disease burden when it’s low but also alleviating continuing cycles of aggressive therapies, which often have very negative side effects.

Engaging the patient’s own immune system to fight their cancer. We are commonly thinking about checkpoint blockade inhibitors, but even the first two days of the annual meeting that already passed, there were numerous new approaches.

Read the full interview here.

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