Immune Monitor - April/May 2021

A Message from the President

Dear Colleagues,

As I am sure many of you saw, U.S. President Joe Biden recently announced as part of his administration’s budget plans to make considerable investment in research. The budget includes a request of $6.5 billion for the creation of a new health agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H). According to many news reports, ARPA-H would reside within the National Institutes of Health and have a major focus on cancer, among other diseases.

To gain a better understanding of ARPA-H and a host of other topics involving the state of cancer research in the U.S., I recently hosted National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, MD for a fireside chat. I enjoyed my chat with Dr. Sharpless, which included discussion of the effect SARS-CoV-2 and the pandemic have had on the NCI, the role immunotherapy is playing in the advancement of cancer patient care in the U.S., the role the NCI can play in supporting promising areas of research and much more.



Watch the Entire SITC Fireside Chat

I’ve pulled a small portion of our chat, transcribed and inserted below, but I hope you have the time to listen to the full discussion, which you can view here.

Myself: As you know, SITC is an immunotherapy organization, and we appreciate you’ve spoken at our national meetings before, so thank you for that. Tell us about the National Cancer Institute, your views on immunotherapy and the importance of immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer.

Sharpless: Now I really talk about this fourth modality that we have – chemotherapy this kind of classical cytotoxic chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and this whole new toolbox of immunotherapy approaches. I think a really important thing for the NCI is how to support the clinical trials in the development of these agents, which is complicated and a lot of the paradigms have to change, measuring things like response and resistance to immunotherapy agents as some of the traditional approaches don’t apply as you know. But also I think we really have to continue to fund the basic science that supports the basic understanding of the immune system and its interaction with cancer, is still an area that I think is fascinating biology, and some of the new technologies, like single cell sequencing and new medicinal chemistry approaches, are really impactful in that area. It’s exciting to wed these new technologies to a really important problem like tumor immunology.

I also think there’s a role for the NCI for certain kinds of support of the clinical development of certain kinds of agents. The pharmaceutical industry does a really good job of combining PD-1 inhibitors with other agents. That’s a trial that Merck and others do very well, maybe not a high priority for the NCI unless it’s a really complicated trial or complicated agent, but where think there is a possible need for more support for the National Cancer Institute is around cellular immunotherapy trials, which is still quite challenging because of the manufacturing, regulatory and compliance issues, so I think there is a place where if the federal government can help de-risk these technologies a little more, by showing that they work, and particularly allowing trials to be multi-institutional. A single institution study is not nearly as convincing as something that the same CAR construct that can be done in multiple places with beneficial effect. So I think that’s an area where the federal government has a specific role to facilitate a very important kind of clinical research in immuno-oncology.

I think the suite of activities at the NCI now is very robust. As you know, the Cancer Moonshot which began in 2017, has a major focus on cancer immunology, both in adults and children, both in basic science and translational and clinical work. I think it’s really an established modality now and it’s important that the NCI work with groups like SITC to advance that mission.

Thank you very much to Dr. Sharpless for dedicating his time to speak about a range of important issues. I know our society looks forward to finding new and engaging ways our organization can collaborate with the NCI in the future. I also hope we get to see and hear from Dr. Sharpless in person during the 36th Annual Meeting & Pre-Conference Programs (SITC 2021), scheduled to take place Nov. 10–14 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., and virtually for those who cannot attend in person. I look forward to seeing the SITC family in D.C. this fall.


Patrick Hwu, MD

SITC President

Join Us In Person or Virtually at SITC 2021

Join SITC at the 36th Annual Meeting & Pre-Conference Programs (SITC 2021) in Washington, D.C., or virtually, Nov. 10–14, 2021, to take part in the leading destination for scientific exchange, education and networking in the cancer immunotherapy field. For more information about attending SITC 2021 in person or virtually, visit the FAQ page.

SITC Wants Your Cutting-Edge Research

Submit your research for consideration as an oral or poster abstract presentation at SITC 2021. SITC will offer 36 Young Investigator Awards, all recognizing excellence in novel research and providing young investigators with the experience necessary for successful careers.

Submit your abstract now.

Important Dates

  • April 22, 2021: Regular abstracts, Young Investigator Award abstracts and late-breaking abstract applications submission site opens. 
  • July 29, 2021: Regular abstracts, Young Investigator Award abstracts and late-breaking abstract applications submission site closes at 5 p.m. PDT. 
  • Aug. 19, 2021: Late-Breaking abstracts submission site opens  
  • Aug. 31, 2021: Late-Breaking abstracts submission site closes at 5 p.m. PDT. 

For the full list of important abstract dates, information on abstract categories, guidelines and procedures, FAQ, or to submit your abstract, please visit

2021 SITC Election Closes May 5

SITC regular and emeritus members are now voting in the 2021 SITC Election to select three At-Large Directors to serve three-year terms on the SITC Board of Directors.

At-Large Director Candidates (Three Selected)

The SITC Election will close on Wednesday, May 5, at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

Applications Due May 13 for SITC's Technology Awards

SITC is pleased to announce two award opportunities that will assist early career investigators in advancing their cancer immunotherapy research by leveraging spatial technology platforms. Interested applicants, domestic and international across academia and government, may apply for more than one award. Learn more about these unique award opportunities by clicking the links below.

Applications are due May 13 by 11:59 p.m. EDT.

Register for Pair of Upcoming SITC Webinar Series

Targets for Cancer Immunotherapy: A Deep Dive Webinar Series.

SITC is pleased to offer a unique series of eight, online seminars to address key questions in the field of cancer immunotherapy, both comprehensive and in an easily accessible format. Basic, clinical and translational researchers in academia and industry, as well as members of the investment community, are invited to register for Targets for Cancer Immunotherapy: A Deep Dive Webinar Series.

View the dates, times and co-chairs/faculty information for each of the eight webinars in the series. Registrants will have on-demand access to the recorded seminars within 24 hours of the live event.

SITC-NCI Computational Immuno-oncology Webinar Series

In partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), SITC is pleased to launch a new series of nine computational immuno-oncology webinars (click here to register now). These free-to-attend digital events will help individual research labs to embrace the computational challenges of analyzing and integrating diverse assay data across the spectrum of immuno-oncology.

Click here to view the entire upcoming schedule of webinars, including the first, Immunogenomics: Computational Science in Immuno-Oncology, scheduled for May 11 from 3:30–4:30 p.m. EDT

Save the Date for SITC Fall Programs

Interrogating the Tumor-Specific Surfaceome for Immune Targeting Workshop

Sept. 29–30, 2021 · San Diego · Register Now · Program Schedule                                                     

Program Organizers

  • Samir M. Hanash, MD, PhD  – The University of Texas MD Anderson
  • Avery D. Posey Jr., PhD – University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Abstracts are now being accepted for the Interrogating the Tumor-Specific Surfaceome for Immune Targeting Workshop. Please submit your abstracts by 5 p.m. EDT on July 22, 2021.

Bispecific T cell Engagers Workshops

Sept. 30–Oct. 1, 2021 · San Diego · Register Now· Program Schedule

Program Organizers

  • Elizabeth Budde, MD, PhD – City of Hope
  • Daniel S. Chen, MD, PhD – IGM Biosciences, Inc.
  • James L. Gulley, MD, PhD, FACP – National Cancer Institute

Cytokines in Cancer Immunotherapy Workshop

Oct. 11–12, 2021 · New York · Register Now · Program Schedule

Program Organizers

  • Susan M. Kaech, PhD – Salk Institute
  • Anne O' Garra, PhD – The Francis Crick Institute
  • Aaron Ring, MD, PhD– Yale University

Abstracts are now being accepted for the Cytokines in Cancer Immunotherapy Workshop. Please submit your abstracts by 5 p.m. EDT on July 22, 2021.