Newswise — Siena, Italy, April 11th, 2016: More than 30 prominent international scientists gathered to discuss the state-of-the-art, as well as promising future approaches for the treatment of lung cancer at the stunning 17th century Borgo San Luigi, in Monteriggion (Siena)i, in the heart of the Tuscany countryside. The meeting, entitled “Immunotherapy meets Lung Cancer: New treatments for non small cell lung cancer and 3rd International Cancer Vaccine meeting,” focused on one of the most common and deadly tumors, defined as one of the ‘big killers,’ but whose clinical treatment has profoundly changed in recent years owing to the contribution of both personalized medicine and immunotherapy strategies.

The meeting, which took place April 8-10, was organized by Pierpaolo Correale, oncoimmunologist of the Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Senese, Luigi Pirtoli, Chair of Radiotherapy Section at the University of Siena, and Antonio Giordano, Director of the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA USA who is also Professor of Pathology and Oncology at the University of Siena.

“Personalized medicine has completely reshaped modern cancer therapy,” says professor Giordano. “Treatment tailored to each individual patient is able to target the tumor's specific molecular characteristics. However, tumors are often characterized by a high molecular heterogeneity, and can find new routes to escape treatments,” Giordano continued. “We are currently experiencing a revolution in cancer care due to the fact that, through immunotherapy strategies, we can use the immune system as an ally against cancer. We are here today to try and make the most out of this new opportunity.”

“So far we have directed our research strategies to identify the molecular alterations driving cancer development and progression,” says Francesca Pentimalli, a long term collaborator of Prof. Giordano at the National Cancer Institute of Naples, Pascale. “We have achieved an arsenal of drugs against these altered molecules, many of which are already used in the clinical setting. We need now to understand how to combine the use of these drugs with the other therapeutic approaches such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and the new immunotherapy weapons.

“This promises to be the quickest way to gain new significant benefits for cancer patients,” Pentimalli says. “To identify and test the use of new rational combinations to tackle lung cancer, it is necessary to work with multidisciplinary groups,” such as those assembled at the meeting in Siena, including major experts in different fields of cancer research and treatment.Among the outstanding faculty, Catherine Pietanza, Medical Oncologist from the Merck, New York discussed what are and will be the approaches towards the small cell variant of lung cancer in the 21st century.

“Systemic treatment for small cell lung cancer has not changed in over 30 years,” says Pietanza. “Recently, comprehensive molecular profiling has helped to identify multiple targets, including MYC, PARP, and Notch, leading to trials that are enrolling patients. Further, we are seeing encouraging results with immune checkpoint inhibitors and antibody drug conjugates. With well-designed, biologically-driven trials we may begin to see a change in outcomes for SCLC patients.”

Among the organizers, Pierpaolo Correale, oncologist of Neapolitan origins, presented his recently developed cancer vaccine against a protein that has been for years a crucial target of chemotherapy. This approach is particularly promising because it could function against different tumor types. Antonio Giordano presented various translational approaches attempted by his team to restore the function of crucial cell cycle regulatory genes in lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The meeting also included a roundtable discussion of problems pertaining to the high economic burden of modern biotherapies.