Keynote Speakers

Sponsored by

Staff portrait Katherine Warren, MD. Photo by Sam Ogden.

Katherine Warren, MD

Presentation Title:  The road to advancement: Finding a path to a cure for DIPG

Date/Time:  Thursday, October 13th – 1:00 pm

Synopsis: Pediatric brain tumors are a histologically and biologically heterogeneous group of tumors.  Although relatively rare, they represent the most common cause of cancer death in children.  Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a lethal malignant brainstem glioma affecting approximately 300 children/year in the United States. Despite hundreds of clinical trials, no improvement in outcomes for these children have been realized in more than 50 years.  This was due to a number of obstacles, including lack of tissue to study as the diagnosis was based upon typical radiologic findings in the context of a typical clinical presentation.  However, the eventual determination that DIPG differed biologically from adult glioblastoma released constraints on tissue acquisition.  Subsequently, significant advances in understanding this tumor’s biology have been realized.  These advances were possible due to evaluating tumor tissue throughout the disease course, creating models, and establishing international collaborations to coordinate efforts and share data.  These efforts are now being translated in the clinic, with the hope that efficacious therapies for this patient population can be identified. This address will discuss our approach to and eventual improved understanding of a rare tumor with limited tissue availability.

About the presenter:  Dr. Warren is a pediatric neuro-oncologist focused on developing new therapeutics for children with CNS tumors.  She has extensive experience in pharmacology, neuro-imaging, and clinical trial design, and is a leading innovator in developing new means of drug delivery.  Dr. Warren was a Senior Investigator at the National Cancer Institute where she worked for more than 25 years, and until recently, the Clinical Director of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at Dana Farber Cancer Institute.


Sponsored by

Susan Bates, MD

Presentation Title:  Epigenetic therapies in oncology

Date/Time:  Saturday, October 15th – 8:00 am

Synopsis:  This talk will focus on epigenetic therapies in oncology. The development of epigenetic therapies has been a long road, beginning with early observations of cancer cells undergoing differentiation after the addition of butyric acid in the mid 1970s. Epigenetic therapies involve targeting the proteins that control chromatin and thereby regulate gene expression. These proteins, or “epigenetic regulators” have been implicated in a number of different cancers, with both loss and gain of function mutations observed. DNA hypomethylating agents azacytidine and decitabine were the first to receive FDA approval, followed by the histone deacetylase inhibitors. It was histone deacetylase inhibition that led to the hemin differentiation observed in leukemic cells treated with butyric acid over 40 years ago. Drugs targeting IDH 1 and 2, and the histone methyltransferase EZH2 have been added to the armamentarium in recent years. The EZH2 inhibitor tazemetostat is notable for being active not only where there is an activating EZH2 mutation, but also in cancers associated with a disrupted chromatin remodeling complex. Our review of will cover basic principles of epigenetic mechanisms of oncogenesis, and the therapies developed to treat the cancers that result.

About the presenter:  Professor of Medicine, joined Columbia University Irving Medical Center and James J Peters Bronx VA Medical Center from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Bates specializes in the treatment of patients with pancreatic and biliary cancers. Her research focuses on drug resistant cancers and approaches to evaluate and improve the activity of epigenetic modifying agents. Her clinical trials have involved bench to bedside or bedside to bench translational research. Her laboratory was among the first to clone the multidrug transporter ABCG2, characterizing its function and its role in chemo-resistance and chemo-protection. She identified romidepsin, a novel histone deacetylase inhibitor and brought this drug through Phase I and Phase II testing.  Her laboratory studies mechanisms of action of epigenetic agents, and the ability of HDAC inhibitors to create cellular vulnerabilities that can be translated into effective combination therapies for resistant solid tumors. Her laboratory is currently working on an epigenetic combination to treat pancreatic cancers and cholangiocarcinoma.