Keynote Speakers


Presenter:  Amy Heimberger, MD
Presentation Title:  Immunobiology and immunotherapy for CNS tumors in man and his best friend
Date:  Thursday, October 17th  1:15 – 2:15 pm

Synopsis: Glioma heterogeneity, blood brain barrier penetration, and mechanisms of therapeutic resistance have thwarted therapeutic success of targeted agents for central nervous system (CNS) tumors. However, these tumors can be immunological recognized because of their mutational load and antigenic diversity but clearance is negated by a multitude of tumor-mediated immune suppressive mechanisms including innate immune dysfunction.  Immunotherapy strategies to date have focused on the manipulation of the adaptive immune system and are limited to cell surface targets. This lecture will be evaluating the role of the innate immune system in the process of progression and prognosis, including across species, while also exploring the operational pathways that become dysregulated in the innate immune system during gliomagenesis.


Dr. Amy Heimberger is a Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and has an extensive research program focused on immune therapeutic strategies for glioma patients and studies tumor-mediated mechanisms of immune suppression. Dr. Heimberger’s laboratory has: 1) co-developed from bench to bedside a peptide (PEP-3-KLH/CDX-110/ rindopepimut) vaccine that targets the epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII); 2) clarified that the signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) pathway is a key molecular hub of gliomagenesis and tumor-mediated immune suppression and conducted the development of a novel small molecule inhibitor of STAT3, WP1066 that is now in Phase I clinical trials; 3) showed that tumor-associated microglia/macrophages do not participate in anti-tumor immune responses but rather assist in potentiating gliomagenesis via STAT3; 4) established that glioblastoma-associated cancer stem cells exert immune suppressive properties on both the adaptive and innate arms of the immune system and showed this could be reversed with inhibitors of the STAT3 pathway; and 5) demonstrated that microRNAs could target immune suppressive mechanisms and be exploited as immune modulatory therapeutics. Dr. Heimberger is the only faculty member at MD Anderson that has been awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. She holds multiple National Institute of Health and foundation grants. She has served on a wide variety of study sections and was the Chair of the Clinical Neuroimmunology and Brain Tumor Study Section at the NIH Dr. Heimberger has a clinical interest in awake mapping and resection of gliomas within eloquent cortex. She has been named by the US News and World Report as a Top Doc.

This keynote is sponsored by



Presenter: Keila Torres, MD, PhD, FACS
Presentation Title: Epigenomic ordering and therapeutic vulnerabilities in peripheral nerve sheath tumors
Date/Time:  Saturday, October 19th  8:00-9:00 am

Synopsis:  Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) are an aggressive group of tumors that accounts for ~ 5% of soft tissue sarcomas. These tumors are a heterogeneous group of malignancies that arise from the peripheral nerve sheath.  Approximately 40–50% of MPNSTs occur within the setting of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a highly penetrant autosomal dominant genetic disorder caused by a loss of function mutation in the NF1 gene. The lifetime incidence of malignant transformation of existing neurofibromas in NF1 patients is approximately 10-13%. An additional 40–47% of MPNSTs develop sporadically, and 10–13% arise in a prior field of therapeutic radiation. Management of these tumors is challenging, as the benefit of chemotherapy has not been widely demonstrated, and the success of radiotherapy for local control has not consistently been reported. Prognosis in patients with MPNST remains poor with reported 5-year disease-specific survival rates ranging from 39–60%. In this seminar, we will discuss epigenetic mechanisms that have a significant role in the progression of these aggressive tumors. Also, we will explore how this knowledge can be utilized for diagnosis and potential treatments of patients affected by peripheral nerve sheath tumors.

Dr. Keila Torres is an Associate Professor, Department of Surgical Oncology, Division of Surgery, at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.  She holds a dual/joint/Adjunct appointment as an Associate Professor, Department of Genomic Medicine, Division of Cancer Medicine, at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.

Dr. Torres’ commitment is to advance the understanding and treatment of soft tissue sarcoma through translational research. She is a graduate of The University of Puerto Rico, and The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University. Dr. Torres completed her General Surgery Residency at Robert Wood Johnson University. She received further postgraduate training as a clinical fellow in General Surgical Oncology in the Department of Surgical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Torres’ current research is focused on the examination of the molecular mechanisms deregulations that promote the pathogenesis of soft tissue sarcomas with the intent to develop targeted therapeutic approaches for the treatment of this disease cluster.

This keynote is sponsored by