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CPI Research Meeting 2021

The inaugural Cancer Prevention Initiative (CPI) Research Meeting was held on November 10, 2021. This virtual meeting featured CPI-funded researchers from around the globe. The meeting presented a lineup of top scientists and interesting topics on approaches to cancer prevention. Not only did the researchers share their developing ideas, they exchanged their latest research findings thereby building a strong foundation for future connection and collaboration.

CPI President and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Theo Ross opened the meeting by acknowledging the generous funding from the Lyda Hill Foundation that supported the meeting. Dr. Ross also highlighted the goals and mission of CPI as the backdrop for the research findings presented. She emphasized how key it is for CPI to enable the scientists’ work and disable roadblocks to discovery. She asked the scientists for feedback, either during or following the meeting, for how CPI can improve. Dr. Ross introduced the meeting’s esteemed moderator Dr. Larry Brody, Director of the Division of Genomics at the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Brody has been a pioneer in the discovery of the genetic basis for breast cancer and investigation of the roles of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in preventing cancer.

The CPI-funded work featured two broad areas: immune-based cancer prevention and the prevention of cancers during the earliest step of pre-cancer formation.

Immune-based treatments of cancer have been successful in a number of tumor types. A key CPI question is: Can the immune system be harnessed through vaccination to prevent inherited tumors? CPI researchers who are focused on answering this question, presented exciting, positive results. A team including Drs. Jos Jonkers, Dario Zimmerli, and Jelle Wesseling (Netherlands Cancer Institute), Dr. Ashley Cimino-Mathews (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), and Drs. Charis Eng and Ritika Jaini (Cleveland Clinic) are working on vaccines that would specifically target BRCA1/2 mutated cells before they can proliferate into harmful tumors. In another approach, Dr. Peter Lee (City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center) discussed his results related to repurposing an FDA-approved antiparasitic drug that activates the immune surveillance system via “autovaccination” to prevent cancer initiation.

Other teams of CPI researchers presented their progress on preventing pre-cancerous cells from developing into full-fledged tumors. It is well known that precancerous cells develop in patients with inherited breast and ovarian cancer syndromes when a “good” copy of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene is lost. Efforts to learn when this event happens and find ways to restore the normal gene copy are key areas of cancer prevention research. Dr. Maria Jasin (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) presented her team’s work to develop a test that measures this pre-cancer initiating step and to find chemical agents that lead to BRCA gene loss. In a complimentary study, Drs. Joanne Kotsopoulos and Leonardo Salmena, and Ph.D. candidate Erin Sellars (Women’s College Research Center at University of Toronto) discussed their efforts to restore the normal BRCA1 protein by screening for drugs that increase BRCA1 expression. Their screen also revealed numerous down-regulators of BRCA1, which when combined with PARP inhibitors are effective in eliminating non-BRCA1 mutated cancers. Dr. Ralph Scully (Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) discussed his work to identify early biomarkers to improve risk assessment in individuals who have BRCA mutations, potentially tailoring prevention strategies on an individual basis.

The discussion of these diverse approaches highlighted CPI’s mission to prevent cancer or more effectively treat early cancers. To further the innovation and spark creative ideas that are key to this goal, Dr. Ross introduced the embryonic concept of a new CPI Innovation Award for cutting edge, risky ideas in the Cancer Prevention space. This will be the topic of another blog after more ideas for how this award will be administered and a commitment is made for funding.

The meeting was supported by generous funding from Lyda Hill Philanthropies. Plans for in-person research meetings in Dallas in 2022 and 2023 are already in the works.

Meeting Photo


Lawrence Brody, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Genomics
National Human Genome Research Institute
National Institutes of Health


Dr. Ashley Cimino-Mathews, M.D. Presenter
Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
“Characterizing the mammary tumor immune microenvironment of BRCA1 mutation carriers”

Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Sondra J. and Stephen R. Hardis Endowed Chair in Cancer Genomic Medicine
Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic
“Transcriptome guided vaccine for BRCA1/2 germline mutation carriers”

Ritika Jaini, Ph.D. Presenter
Assistant Professor
Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic
“Transcriptome guided vaccine for BRCA1/2 germline mutation carriers”

Maria Jasin, Ph.D. Presenter
Professor, Lab Head
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
“Preventing LOH in BRCA mutation carriers”

Jos Jonkers, Ph.D. Keynote Presenter
Professor, Senior Group Leader and Division Head
Division of Molecular Pathology, Netherlands Cancer Institute
“p53 SLP vaccination in Brca1dependent mouse model”

Joanne Kotsopoulos, Ph.D.
Scientist, Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit, Women’s College Research Institute
Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, University of Toronto
“Screening for modifiers of BRCA1 expression”

Peter P. Lee, M.D. Presenter
Chair, Department of Immuno-Oncology
Professor, Department of Hematology & Hematopoetic Cell Transplantation
City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
“Chemo-immunoprevention for cancer via repurposing a low-cost, safe, anti-parasitic drug”

Steven Narod M.D., FRCPC, FRSC
Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer, Women’s College Research Institute
Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
“Screening for modifiers of BRCA1 expression”

Leonardo Salmena, Ph.D. Presenter
Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Toronto
Affiliate Scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Canada Research Chair, Tier 2
“Screening for modifiers of BRCA1 expression”

Erin Sellars M.Sc.
Ph.D. Candidate, Salmena Lab
Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, University of Toronto
“Screening for modifiers of BRCA1 expression”

Ralph Scully, M.B.B.S., Ph.D. Presenter
Professor, Harvard Medical School
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
“Cancer risk predictors in the BRCA+/- epithelium”

Jelle Wesseling, M.D., Ph.D. Presenter
Professor, Senior Group Leader and Division Head
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, Leiden University Medical Center
Netherlands Cancer Institute
“Immune response to BRCA1-associated Breast Cancer”

Dario Zimmerli, Ph.D. Presenter
Postdoctoral Fellow, Jos Jonkers Lab
Division of Molecular Pathology, Netherlands Cancer Institute
“p53 SLP vaccination in Brca1 dependent mouse model”

CPI team participants:

Doug Hager, Ph.D.
CPI Sr. Vice President, Project Management and Operations

Theo Ross, MD, Ph.D.
CPI President and Chief Scientific Officer

Marion Stewart-Thomas, M.S.
CPI Operations Manager

Angelique Whitehurst, PhD.
CPI Sr. Scientist and Advisor

Ranjula Wijayatunge, Ph.D.
CPI Project Manager

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