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The Future of Immunotherapy: A different take on a symposium!

This past Tuesday on November 17th, BCLA hosted “The Future of Immunotherapy”, a symposium organized with the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) and sponsored by the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs for Biomedical and Life Sciences at UCLA. The events keynote speaker, Antoni Ribas, Director of the Tumor Immunology Program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, presented an insightful talk on how the immune system can be used to target cancer and gave a good overview of the field. To highlight the topic from an unique angle, we invited a panel of key stakeholders in cancer immunology, who presented their views on the future of this therapeutic avenue. Following the panel discussion was a brief Q&A session and the event concluded with a dynamic networking session, refreshments, and stimulating conversation.

Dr. Antoni Ribas kicked off the symposium by explaining how a specific cell surface receptor, PD-1, plays a pivotal role in immunological cancer therapies. Following Dr. Ribas talk, BCLA’s own Yari Fontebasso moderated a panel consisting not only of researchers in academia and industry, but also a patient and a patient advocate. Dr. Steven Dubinett, a Professor at UCLA and Director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), contributed to the panel discussion with his experience in academic research and clinical medicine. Joining him was Dr. Roy Doumani, the Executive Director of the UCLA Business of Science Center, who gave his perspective on the importance of patient advocacy and how the repayment system could cope with these expensive treatments. Tom Stutz, a patient who Dr. Ribas successfully treated for metastatic melanoma with a cancer immunotherapy drug, shared his inspiring story. The Chief Scientific Officer at Kite Pharma, Dr. Margo Roberts discussed her experience in developing the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology, which has been used in the treatment of HIV and cancer, while Dr. Zach Zimmerman, a Clinical Research Senior Medical Scientist at Amgen, offered his view on how the company portfolio and clinical trial management are changing with the advent of immunotherapy. The audience raised many interesting questions on the current state of cancer immunotherapy research and where the field could head in the future.

The symposium’s scope and program were well received by the over 100 attendees that joined the event from various campuses all over Los Angeles. Overall the symposium was a great success!

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