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The Noreen O'Neill Melanoma Research Symposium: Heterogeneity, Plasticity and Reprogramming in Melanoma

Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2019 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Melanoma is a highly heterogeneous disease and is capable of adapting quickly to changing environmental conditions, through the selection of slow-cycling populations with increased intrinsic drug resistance. These characteristics of aggressive melanoma present formidable challenges in the design of effective therapies and require combinatorial strategies to attack the disease from multiple flanks. We will discuss the latest discoveries and approaches that the melanoma research community is developing to address these issues.

The Wistar Institute
3601 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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This is a preliminary agenda. Please check back for updates closer to the symposium.

8:00 AM  

Registration and Breakfast

9:00 AM  

Ashani T. Weeraratna, Ph.D.
Ira Brind Professor
Professor and Co-Program Leader, Immunology,                             
Microenvironment and Metastasis Program
Member, The Wistar Institute Melanoma Research Center
The Wistar Institute

9:15 - 9:45 AM  

“Targeting potential therapeutic vulnerabilities in RAS-driven cancers”
Martin McMahon, Ph.D.
Cumming-Presidential Professor of Cancer Biology 
Senior Director for Preclinical Translation
University of Utah

9:45 - 10:15 AM  

“Determinants of effective tumor immunity in patients”
Nir Hacohen, Ph.D.
David P. Ryan Professor of Medicine
Director of Center for Cancer Immunology
Massachusetts General Hospita

10:15 - 10:30 AM  


10:30 - 11:00 AM  

“Identifying genetic variation that contributes to melanoma development”
C. Daniela Robles-Espinoza, Ph.D.
Junior Group Leader, International Laboratory for Human Genome Research
National Autonomous University of Mexico

11:00 - 11:30 AM  

“New tool box – new paths in melanoma”
Ze’ev Ronai, Ph.D.
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute 

11:30 AM - 12:00 PM  

“Environmental exposures, melanoma subtypes and survival”
Julia Newton-Bishop, Ph.D.
Professor, Institute of Medical Research at St James’s
University of Leeds

12:00 PM  


1:15 - 1:45 PM  

“Effects of chemically enforced differentiation on melanoma tumor growth”
Alexander Roesch, M.D.
Professor of Dermato-Oncology
Chief Physician, Head of Dermato-Oncology Research Unit
University Hospital Essen

1:45 - 2:15 PM  

“Overcoming resistance to MAPK small molecule inhibitors and checkpoint blockage”
Meenhard Herlyn, D.V.M., D.Sc.
Director, The Wistar Institute Melanoma Research Center
Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program
The Wistar Institute

2:15 - 2:30 PM  


2:30 - 3:00 PM  

“A switch of the epigenome during early disease progression”
Julide Celebi, M.D.
Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Dermatology 
Professor, Department of Pathology and Oncological Sciences 
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

3:00 - 3:30 PM  

“Beyond tumor genomics- energy balance, melanoma biology, and therapeutic response”
Jennifer McQuade, M.D.
Assistant Professor and Physician Scientist, Melanoma Medical Oncology
MD Anderson Cancer Center 

3:30 - 4:00 PM  

“Nongenetic mechanisms of tumor evolution and therapy resistance”
Jean-Christophe Marine, Ph.D.    
Professor, Group Leader, and Director, VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology
University of Leuve

4:00 - 4:15 PM  

Closing Remarks
Jessie Villanueva, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program
Member, The Wistar Institute Melanoma Research Center
The Wistar Institute

4:30 - 6:30 PM  

Reception and Poster Session

Julide Celebi, M.D.
Julide Celebi, M.D.

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Julide Celebi, M.D., is a professor and vice chair of the Department of Dermatology and professor of the Department of Pathology and Oncological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is a physician of the Mount Sinai Hospital.

Her laboratory studies focus on the molecular genetics of melanoma.

Celebi completed her dermatology residency training at Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons. In 1998, she joined the faculty at Columbia University and completed translational and basic science research training in cancer genetics. She is an active member of the Tisch Cancer Institute located at the Norma and Leon Hess Center for Science and Medicine.

Nir Hacohen, Ph.D.
Nir Hacohen, Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital

Nir Hacohen, Ph.D., is the David P. Ryan Professor of Medicine, director of the Center for Cancer Immunology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and co-director of the Center for Cell Circuits at the Broad Institute. 

He leads a group of immunologists, geneticists, biochemists, technologists and computational biologists to develop unbiased strategies to dissect immune responses in health and disease and develop predictive and personalized approaches to medicine. His group addresses several major questions: How are immune responses against cancer initiated, maintained and evaded? What are the immune circuits that sense and control pathogens such as viruses and bacteria? How does autoimmunity develop in autoimmune-prone tissues in lupus patients? The Hacohen lab also develops unbiased analytical strategies to develop real-world therapeutics, with completed and ongoing clinical trials of personalized neoantigen vaccines based on a computational analysis of the patient’s tumor genome.

Meenhard Herlyn, D.V.M., D.Sc.
Meenhard Herlyn, D.V.M., D.Sc.

The Wistar Institute

Herlyn studies the normal and malignant tissue environment to develop rational approaches to cancer therapy, with a focus on melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.

Born and educated in Germany, Herlyn received his D.V.M. at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Hanover in 1970 and went on to receive a D.Sc. in medical microbiology at the University of Munich in 1976. He came to The Wistar Institute as an associate scientist in 1976, where he worked in the emerging field of monoclonal antibodies, a technology that formed the basis of a portion of today’s new targeted therapeutics. In 1981, Herlyn became an assistant professor and established a laboratory that is, today, one the largest and best-known research groups on the study of melanoma biology.

Jean-Christophe Marine, Ph.D.
Jean-Christophe Marine, Ph.D.

VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology

Jean-Christophe Marine, Ph.D., is professor at the University of Leuven, Belgium, and senior group leader and director of the Center for Cancer Biology at the VIB research institute.

His interests focus on the mechanisms by which cancer-specific, non-mutational (i.e. epigenetic and post-transcriptional) events modulate tumor initiation, progression and therapy outcome. The Marine laboratory has recently developed a growing interest in several aspects of melanoma biology, in particular in the identification of melanoma-initiating cells and the mechanisms that contribute to early tumor development, emergence of inter- and intra-tumor heterogeneity and therapy resistance. 

Marine obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Liège, Belgium, and was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He was a Marie Curie Fellow at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy. He received several national and international prizes, including the EMBO Young Investigator Award for his work on p53 modifiers.

Martin McMahon, Ph.D.
Martin McMahon, Ph.D.

University of Utah

Martin McMahon, Ph.D, is the Cumming-Presidential Chair of Cancer Biology, senior director of Preclinical Translation and co-leader of the Experimental Therapeutics Program of the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

McMahon’s translational research program focuses on the mechanisms underlying the initiation, progression and maintenance of metastatic melanoma, lung and pancreatic cancer, which are derived from distinctly different cell types but share common genetic alterations, especially mutations in the KRAS, BRAF or PIK3CA proto-oncogenes. The McMahon laboratory uses genetically engineered mouse models, patient-derived xenografts and cancer-derived cell lines. 

McMahon obtained his Ph.D. from King’s College London, U.K. Supported by fellowships from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the American Cancer Society, he trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). In 1991, McMahon established an independent research group at the DNAX Research Institute in Palo Alto (now Merck Research Laboratories) working on the RAF family of protein kinases. In 1998, he joined the faculty of the UCSF/Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center where he served as the Efim Guzik Distinguished Professor of Cancer Biology, co-leader of the Experimental Therapeutics Program and director for Professional Education.He joined the University of Utah in 2015.  

Jennifer McQuade, M.D.
Jennifer McQuade, M.D.

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Jennifer McQuade, M.D., is an assistant professor in Melanoma Medical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

Her research is focused on understanding the role of modifiable host factors on melanoma biology, anti-tumor immunity and therapeutic response. Her work defining a novel association between obesity and improved outcomes with targeted and immune therapy was published in Lancet Oncology in 2018. Ongoing work includes examining the biological basis of this “obesity paradox” as well as examining the interaction between diet, the microbiome and immunity.

After completing her medical training at Baylor College of Medicine, McQuade was a resident at the University of Pennsylvania and an oncology fellow at MD Anderson. During her clinical fellowship she also obtained her M.S. degree in Clinical and Translational Science. She joined the MD Anderson faculty in 2018 through the Physician-Scientist program.  

Julia Newton-Bishop, Ph.D.
Julia Newton-Bishop, Ph.D.

University of Leeds

Julia Newton-Bishop, M.D., is a clinician scientist and professor of dermatology at the University of Leeds, U.K., where she leads the melanoma research group within the Section of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the Institute of Medical Research at St James’s.

Her research group uses genetics to understand susceptibility to melanoma and survival from melanoma. 

Until 2015, Newton-Bishop has worked for many years in the Leeds Specialist Melanoma Multidisciplinary Team, which manages poor-prognosis melanoma for the Yorkshire region of the U.K. Newton-Bishop is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in the U.K. and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Melanoma Research in 2017 by the Society for Melanoma Research.

Daniela Robles-Espinoza, Ph.D.
Daniela Robles-Espinoza, Ph.D.

National University of Mexico

Daniela Robles-Espinoza, Ph.D., leads the Cancer Genetics and Bioinformatics group at the International Laboratory for Human Genome Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). 

Her current focus is on understanding the risk factors and genomic profile of acral lentiginous melanoma, which is the most common subtype of the disease in Mexico and other countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Robles-Espinoza earned her Ph.D. in cancer genetics at the University of Cambridge, U.K. During her Ph.D. studies, she analyzed the exomes of melanoma-prone families from the U.K., Australia and the Netherlands, which facilitated the discovery that rare variants in telomere maintenance genes increased the risk of developing the disease and led to elongated telomeres in carriers. During her postdoctoral research at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, U.K., she studied the influence of common MC1R (the “redhead gene”) germline variants on the somatic profile of melanoma tumors. 

Alexander Roesch, M.D.
Alexander Roesch, M.D.

University Hospital Essen

Alexander Roesch, M.D., is a professor of dermato-oncology, chief physician, head of the Dermato-Oncology Research Unit of the University Hospital of the Essen, Germany. He is an adjunct associate professor at The Wistar Institute. 

His scientific interest is in the biology of melanoma, in particular tumour heterogeneity, tumour plasticity and translational research, including biomarkers for therapy response and resistance, small compound screening and drug development. Roesch has received numerous awards including the Monika Kutzner Award from the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science, the 2011 German Skin Cancer Award from the German Skin Cancer Foundation and the Oscar Gans Award from the German Society of Dermatolog. 

Since 2019, he is the coordinator of the DFG (German Research Foundation)-funded Clinical Research Unit PhenoTImE, a multidisciplinary research consortium focusing on phenotypic therapy and immune escape in melanoma, pancreatic carcinoma, glioblastoma, and childhood pilocytic astrocytoma.

Roesch M.D. graduated M.D. from the University of Ulm Medical School, Germany. He obtained his board certification in dermatology after training at the Department of Dermatology at the Regensburg University Medical Center, Germany. He was a visiting scientist at The Wistar Institute from during 2007 to 2010. Before joining the University Hospital of Essen, Roesch worked as an assistant professor and senior dermatologist at The Saarland Hospital, Homburg, Germany. 

Ze'ev Ronai, Ph.D.
Ze'ev Ronai, Ph.D.

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Ze’ev A. Ronai, Ph.D., is a professor at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

He studies ubiquitin ligases in cancer development, progression and therapy resistance while deciphering their role in tumor microenvironment, with focus on the anti-tumor immunity.

Ronai obtained his Ph.D. in tumor immunology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, followed by postdoctoral training at Columbia University. He was a professor at the Ruttenberg Cancer Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine before joining Sanford Burnham Prebys (SBP) Medical Discovery Institute, where he has served as program director, deputy director of the Cancer Center and as scientific director. Over the past five years, in parallel to his activities at SBP, Ronai has co-led the establishment of the Technion Integrated Cancer Center in Israel.