Choueiri Pushes for Discussion and Collaboration in Kidney Cancer

Partner | Cancer Centers | <b>Dana Farber</b>

Toni Choueiri, MD, discusses the rationale behind the Kidney Cancer Research Summit and recent advances in the renal cell carcinoma landscape.

Toni K. Choueiri, MD

The 1st annual Kidney Cancer Research Summit (KCRS) took place September 12 and 13 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a vision to unite life science professionals from across the kidney cancer industry, said conference co-chair Toni Choueiri, MD.

"The conference was one of the major excitements I had in my career," said Choueiri, director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology and director of the Kidney Cancer Center, senior physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Hopefully, this will be the start of something bigger to cure kidney cancer—a disease that still takes around 15,000 American lives every year in the United States."

This grassroots movement event, Choueiri explained, was funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) in partner with KidneyCAN, an organization that was formed to support patient advocacy and accelerate kidney cancer research through financial support from researchers to gain a deeper understanding of kidney cancer and better treat patients with the disease, with an ultimate goal to cure all patients.

In an interview with OncLive® during the conference, Choueiri, who chaired the event alongside Hans Hammers, MD, of UT Southwestern Medical Center, discussed the rationale behind KCRS and recent advances in the renal cell carcinoma (RCC) landscape.

OncLive: Could you provide some background on the conference and the rationale for this meeting?

Choueiri: With the help and support of several members of the kidney cancer community, we were able to start KCRS. We are in partnership with KidneyCAN, based on the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs and the semi-recent DOD funding, specifically for kidney cancer.

We started this first meeting in order to present findings to the kidney cancer community. It is the first meeting of basic science and translational research dedicated to kidney cancer that I am aware of. The involved partnership was patient, patient advocates, industry, basic science, as well as a charitable kidney cancer organization.

The meeting dealt with several aspects of the science of kidney cancer: the tumor microenvironment, novel checkpoint blockers, epigenetics, drug delivery, and biomarkers. There was one section specific to rare kidney cancer variants, which all together make up about 15% to 20% of all kidney cancer.

There was a session about collaboration. Through discussion, how can we collaborate with each other to cure [patients with] kidney cancer? Finally, there was a mentoring session in partnership with the American Urological Association, which has been very much involved in and funded a great deal of kidney cancer research.

Could you discuss the benefit of including basic scientists as well as academic oncologists?

[Usually], we do not talk to each other. Everyone has an expertise. Rarely do folks have the basic science expertise, the clinical trial expertise, [and the industry expertise] all together. Here, we sat down and compared notes [with each other]. A lot of people—for example, some researchers—came into kidney cancer by pure luck based on the DOD funding. Some have funding or research in breast cancer or in drug delivery. Now, hopefully, they are looking at kidney cancer with the same optics.

The fact that we were all in this beautiful city together, thinking and interacting in a somewhat informal way will inevitably facilitate the conversation going forward.

What are your thoughts on the discussions surrounding CAR T-cell therapy in RCC?

We had a session as part of cellular therapies that focused on CAR T-cell therapy. This is exciting. CAR T-cell therapy has its challenges and [its application] in solid tumors is going to be much harder than in hematologic malignancies, but I truly believe it is here to stay. There will be some barriers, but there is also a lot of biotech [development] and research being done now. We want to bring this to kidney cancer.

For those who could not make it to the KCRS this year, what are the plans for next year?

The hope is that we will continue. We are going to feel the level of interest [from attendees] and then hopefully, with the support of everyone involved this year, as well as [future] support of more people interested in kidney cancer, we will have a KCRS 2020.