“Translating Science into Survival” Image 1


“Translating Science into Survival”

The fact that the Third International Cancer lmmunotherapy Conference 2017 was staged in Germany is actually owed to the city of Mainz: the academic and science powerhouse ranks among Europe's leading research centers for cancer immunotherapy.

henever Prof. em. Dr. Christoph Huber calls to mind the global congress on cancer immunotherapy, he recollects the many junior scientists from all over the world. "They presented the products of their research work in more than 500 outstanding abstracts", is how the conference co-chairperson of the Third International Cancer lmmunotherapy Conference and President of CIMT delighted in summarizing his impressions. In addition to the two poster sessions, the program staged at the Rheingoldhalle Congress Center Mainz from September 6 to 9, 2017 was composed of eleven plenary sessions with 55 discourses, a keynote lecture and an award lecture, the William B. Coley Lecture.

Almost 1,500 physicians and researchers travelled to the city of Mainz from over 30 countries – even if Hurricane Harvey grounded several delegates at the airport in Houston. The world congress on cancer immunotherapy is a platform for the presentation of pioneering studies on the most recent findings in fighting cancer. The European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (EACCME) grants 22 European CME Credits to participants. The guiding theme "Translating Science into Survival" was very deliberately chosen. "In the past years, we have actually provided proof for the truth of this statement", said Prof. Huber. "Owing to translation of innovative immunotherapy concepts, we have for the first time in tumor-medicine history been able to heal patients with advanced tumor diseases." Participants had their particular focus on therapies which strengthen immune defense against tumorspecific neoantigens and on the transfer of genetically- modified defense cells.

The congress is properly called CRI-CIMT-EATIAACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference, as it is staged jointly by the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT), the European Academy of Tumor Immunology (EATI) and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). "The diverse organizations all participate equally in scientific planning of the congress. Actual on-site realization of the event is always championed by one of the organizations", said Christina Castle, CEO of the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT). "This means that realization was entirely in our hands."

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The world congress on cancer immunotherapy rotates between Europe and the US. After the predecessor events 2015 and 2016 had been staged in New York, the city of Mainz 2017 actually won the bid – even though the Americans had been in favor of Paris. Castle was well aware that Mainz isn't very well known beyond Germany's borders and accordingly had to do a lot of persuading. The proximity to Frankfurt and its airport were strong trumps, and Mainz is less costly in comparison with metropolises such as Paris and London. She emphasized that staging giltedged events in Mainz directly bordering on Frankfurt is a strong option without running up grand bills.

What was an even stronger argument is that Mainz is home to one of Europe's leading research centers in cancer immunotherapy. "In the past 30 years, we have been working intensively to achieve this goal in university research programs in Europe's foremost cancer immunotherapy network CIMT, which we founded, in the translational institute TRON and the local and regional biotech and pharmaceutics companies", Prof. Huber pointed out. Seminal basic research contributions on tumor vaccination, development of antibodies for tumor therapy and transfer of genetically-modified defense cells were developed here and translated into commercially usable products suited for clinical applications. This is accomplished particularly in the university spin-offs Ganymed and BioNTech. Huber: "The translational oncology institute TRON and the cutting-edge technology cluster `individualized immuntherapy-CI3‘ have proven particularly effective as think-tank and in regional networking."

"In the Mainz region alone, there are hundreds of scientists and researchers concerning themselves with cancer immunotherapy", Castle emphasized, pointing to the nearby pharmaceutical industry giants such as Boehringer Ingelheim or Merck in Darmstadt. The willingness of regional businesses to financially sponsor the congress of course helps, as does the CIMT office, which enormously facilitates communication at the congress venue. CIMT has been cooperating with mainzplus Citymarketing for the past ten years. "We knew well we were going to be able to rely on a well-rehearsed team, which is familiar with our needs and organizational processes", said Castle. "With this backing, we joined the bidding race for Mainz with a good chance of crossing the line ahead of the field."


Prof. Christoph Huber und August Moderer (Mitte): eine lange und vertrauensvolle Zusammenarbeit.FOTO: CIMT
Prof. Christoph Huber und August Moderer (Mitte): eine lange und vertrauensvolle Zusammenarbeit.
Prof. Christoph Huber, wissenschaftlicher Vorstand der Third International Cancer lmmunotherapy Conference 2017
tw: Sie haben viel erreicht. Für Ihre Verdienste um die Erforschung und Bekämpfung von Krebs und Immunerkrankungen erhielten Sie das Bundesverdienstkreuz . Was bedeutet Ihnen, den Weltkongress für Krebsimmuntherapie, nach Mainz geholt zu haben?
Prof. Christoph Huber:
Krebsimmuntherapie ist Vision und Hoffnungsträger für die Kranken und ihr Umfeld. Auszeichnungen, positive Medienberichte und Großveranstaltungen begleiten den langen Weg der Umsetzung dieser Sendung und geben uns Kraft bei der Überwindung noch bestehender Hindernisse.

Welche Themen haben die Teilnehmer besonders beschäftigt?
Zum einen Therapieverfahren, die Immunabwehr gegen tumorspezifische Neoantigene verstärken (sogenannte Checkpoint Inhibitoren und Neoantigen-Vakzinen) und zum anderen die Übertragung von genetisch modifizierten Abwehrzellen (sogenannte CAR-T Zellen und andere).

Welche Ergebnisse erwarten Sie?
Die Erfolge der Krebsimmuntherapie basieren auf jahrzehntelangen Anstrengungen weniger Gruppen und Organisationen in akademischer Forschung und kommerzieller Produktentwicklung. Wir sind sicher, dass die Großveranstaltung das Momentum und Anerkennung der Krebsimmuntherapie- Vision verstärkt, den Dialog zwischen konventionellen Krebstherapeuten und Immunonkologen verbessert und die Zahl der aktiv engagierten Forscher bzw. Organisationen aus anderen Gebieten der Krebsforschung vervielfacht.

Mainzplus Citymarketing is a valuable co-organizer: they were in charge of booking 4,500 hotel nights, exhibitor handling, coordination of the social program and project planning at the conference venue including furnishing the auditoria, event technology and catering. Castle: "There was always someone on hand we could turn to. Our cooperation was governed by a solution-oriented attitude." This partnership has been on-going for the past ten years.

"More than ten years ago, we as PCO together with Prof. Huber and his team put together the CIMTConference in Mainz", is how August Moderer, CEO of mainzplus, remembers the early days. Since that time, he has often been host to the conventions of the Association for Cancer lmmunotherapy. The good and trustful relationship to CIMT-President Huber was certainly an asset for the city's application; Moderer considers the positive outcome of the bidding process also to be a token of appreciation for Mainz alias "City of Science 2011" as home to the Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität, the Hochschule Mainz and the Katholische Hochschule Mainz. Moderer: "In particular owing to the internationally renowned and acclaimed Mainz University Medical Center, the medical and healthcare sector is considered highly competent and to a certain degree has industry leadership. "

This is confirmed by Matthias Schultze: "Mainz as home to the Gutenberg-Universität is particularly interesting for convention planners in the medical industry", said the CEO of the German Convention Bureau (GCB). "Germany is Europe's largest healthcare market and at the same time produces outstanding results in healthcare as well as research and academics. All this provides excellent interfaces for conventions and scientific congresses."

One link is the research center for immunotherapy (FZI) of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, which in part is masterminded by Prof. Huber. "Cancer immunotherapy is still in the startup phase and will require an academic environment encouraging and promoting research. Our many years of work in this domain have been rewarded by foundation and reorientation of the FZI." The world congress will also have a lasting effect: "We are confident that these large-scale events will drive the momentum and recognition of the cancer immunotherapy vision, will improve the productive dialogue between conventional cancer therapists and immune oncologists, and will increase the number of actively engaged researchers and organizations from other realms of cancer research." And that certainly includes young academics.  KERSTIN WÜNSCH

“Cancer immunotherapy is vision and hope for the sick.”
Prof. Christoph Huber, Conference Co-Chairperson
“Germany is Europe's largest healthcare market.”
Matthias Schultze, CEO GCB