By Michelle Jaffee
Top neuro-oncology physicians and researchers from across the nation and abroad came together March 25-26 for the fifth annual ReMission Summit, a multidisciplinary gathering focused on discovering new treatments to change the future for patients with brain tumors.
Attendees at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando included survivors and families impacted by brain cancer, advocates devoted to raising awareness and scientists from foremost institutions in the U.S., Canada and England as well as virtual presenters from Germany, Switzerland and Australia.
In welcoming remarks, ReMission Summit Co-Director Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., described the meeting’s purpose: to advance new treatments for malignant brain tumors in both children and adults, with an emphasis on immunotherapy approaches, which harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer.
“Our goal has been to convene each year for updates on advances in the field and to share new knowledge in the work that’s transpired over the prior 12 months,” said Mitchell, co-director of UF’s Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy and director of UF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
That work is driven by the UF-led ReMission Alliance Against Brain Tumors, a network of 13 leading academic medical centers launched with the first ReMission Summit in 2019.
“It’s been a dream of many of us, certainly personally for many years, to truly create an atmosphere of collaboration and synergy where people can accomplish more than they ever would on their own,” Mitchell said. “The ReMission Alliance and the ReMission Summit represent that aspirational goal to be able to both compete in the arenas we all compete in, and at the same time, for a cause as important as curing brain cancer, put those competitive factors aside and bring the best together to achieve a common purpose.”
Co-directed by Mitchell and UF neurosurgeon William A. Friedman, M.D., the first-of-its-kind ReMission Alliance builds collaborations across institutions for laboratory and translational research and new clinical trials.
“I thank all of you who are participating and have chosen to be a part of the alliance, because you are making a difference,” said Anita Zucker, a UF Board of Trustees member who co-chairs the ReMission Summit with Harris Rosen, president and chief operating officer of Rosen Hotels & Resorts. Zucker lost her husband, Jerry Zucker, to brain cancer, and Rosen lost his son, Adam Michael Rosen, to the disease.
“You are giving people with this diagnosis hope and the possibilities for more of a future than they would’ve originally thought,” Zucker told the researchers.
Sessions on immunotherapy advances were led by: Friedman, who co-directs the Wells Center with Mitchell; UF pediatric oncologist Elias Sayour, M.D., Ph.D.; and UF neurosurgeon Maryam Rahman, M.D.
In addition, Tim Spicer, Ph.D., of The Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology, participated on a panel that described new technology being tested to use CAR T cells to target patient-specific proteins. This type of therapy involves altering genes inside T cells so they can attack cancer cells.
Eli Gilboa, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Miami, delivered the keynote, titled “Vaccination against shared neoantigens induced in recurrent and future tumors: Sensitizing tumors cells to immune therapy.”
And in a virtual presentation, Mitchell awarded the third annual Bret Hale Memorial ReMission Alliance Scholarship to JoJo Koppitch, a brain tumor survivor who is studying health sciences at the University of South Florida to become an occupational therapist. The scholarship is a partnership between Paul Hale, who lost his son Bret to a brain tumor, and Ron and Dianne Farb, founders of The Climb for Cancer Foundation.
“I’d like to thank everyone here for all of the work they do in this field,” Koppitch said. “You are all life changers, and the world is made so much better from your research.”
The summit wrapped up with workgroups brainstorming new ideas to develop therapies to target pediatric solid-tumor oncogenic drivers, or genetic mutations responsible for initiating and maintaining certain cancers.