On September 29, the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center hosted its third symposium in the Rockefeller Research Laboratories. The event is held annually to stimulate the exchange of ideas and collaborations between scientists and physicians at Memorial Sloan Kettering and other research institutions. This year’s symposium was focused on the relationship between inflammation and cancer, an emerging area of cancer research and drug development.
Inflammation and immunity — the body’s natural responses to disease or injury — are in many ways relevant for cancer. On the one hand, the immune system can protect the body from cancer by recognizing and killing cancer cells. On the other hand, many cancers may arise from chronic inflammation or infection. In recent years, scientists have become increasingly aware of the fact that tumors can manipulate immune and inflammatory responses to their own advantage — to escape the immune system’s attack as well as to attain new ways to grow and spread.
Three distinguished speakers — Richard Flavell, of the Yale School of Medicine, Lisa Coussens, of the University of California, San Francisco, and Timothy Wang, of Columbia University — discussed different ways by which tumors interact with immune cells and other cells in their local environment. Their presentations illustrated how research in this area can create new opportunities for therapeutic intervention and make cancer a more controllable disease in the future.
The symposium also honored three recipients of the Geoffrey Beene Graduate Fellowship, which since its inception in 2007 has been awarded to exemplary graduate students at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
The Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center supports a growing list of research activities at Memorial Sloan Kettering, including core facilities, endowed junior faculty appointments, a two-day annual retreat for investigators and graduate students, and substantial support for translational research projects. It is funded by a gift from the estate of fashion designer and philanthropist Geoffrey Beene. “The generosity of Geoffrey Beene has fundamentally changed many aspects of research and training at Memorial Sloan Kettering,” said Memorial Sloan Kettering President Harold Varmus during his opening remarks. “It has allowed us to continue making assertive new investments in cancer research, which many of our colleagues are struggling to do in the current financial climate.”