AIM at Melanoma’s International Melanoma Working Group: Progress Report

What do Edinburgh, Scotland, and Tallinn, Estonia, have in common? Both were 2018 sites for AIM at Melanoma’s International Melanoma Working Group (IMWG) meetings.

As usual, approximately 25 of the world’s experts in melanoma gathered—by invitation only—for two days of intense discussions about melanoma research. As usual, a handful of industry scientists joined them. As usual, members of the group presented their recent research projects and talked about their future investigations in a small-group setting.

But the meeting itself is highly unusual—in melanoma, let alone cancer—because it gathers researchers and industry partners together in such a relaxed yet incredibly productive conference. The goal is to encourage collaboration among the world’s leading melanoma researchers in order to make progress toward the cure.

Grant McArthur, head of the Molecular Oncology Laboratory at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Victoria, Australia, shares IMWG chair duties with John Kirkwood, Co-Leader, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and Valerie Guild, AIM’s Co- Founder and President.

IMWG meetings generally follow larger, worldwide melanoma meetings, such as the European Association of Dermato Oncology (EADO). This system allows our attendees to travel once to attend two meetings, and the larger meeting primes them for conversation at our more intimate meeting.

One of the most interesting talks at the Tallin meeting was the cutting edge discussion of tissue based immune profiling given by Dr. Janis Taube, Pathologist of the Hopkins Bloomberg/Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Dr. Taube overviewed the methods used, both during pretreatment and while on-treatment, for assessing changes in tumor tissue infiltrates and biomarkers that have already refined our approach to the use of second-generation anti-PD1/PDL1 checkpoint inhibitors in multiple tumor types, including melanoma. Equally interesting was a presentation by Dr. Mo Kashani-Sabet, Director, Center for Melanoma Research and Treatment, Senior Scientist, California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, on revisiting mitotic rate as a prognostic factor in melanoma—he made a thought-provoking case for including mitotic rate with ulceration and tumor depth in melanoma staging and using it to predict recurrence. Of particular note at the Edinburgh meeting: The five industry partners attending the Edinburgh conference all had new melanoma drugs in the pipeline—good news for melanoma in general, and something that had never happened at IMWG before.

What does 2019 hold for IMWG? The spring meeting will follow EADO’s meeting in Paris and the fall meeting location is not yet determined. Each meeting’s presentations and topics will be decided much closer to the meeting dates so that the most up-to-date and compelling topics are scheduled for discussion, but we are counting on one special guest in Paris: Dr. Jun Guo of China, who is the world’s leading expert on mucosal melanoma and who will talk with IMWG about his research.

Bonjour, Paris. See you in May.

Please keep me informed.

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