SC4: Oligonucleotides for Cancer Immunotherapy

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20 | 6:30 – 9:30 PM


Oligonucleotide-based therapies are now gaining attention as an alternative to antibody and small molecule-based therapies for cancer immunotherapy. In cancers, where current treatment options are limited by efficacy and specificity, oligonucleotide-based drug modalities are offering a good alternative. This course will bring together experts who will share their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges underlying the generation of novel, more targeted and effective oligonucleotide-based drugs for cancer immunotherapy.


6:30 Welcome Remarks and Speaker Introductions

6:45 RNAi Therapy to Potentiate Cancer Immunotherapy

Shanthi Ganesh, PhD, Associate Director, Preclinical Oncology, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

  • Steps for effective immunotherapies
    • Understanding the strategies cancer utilizes to evade from immune system (oncogenic pathways and others)
    • Priming non-inflamed tumors to increase T-cell infiltration (β-catenin inhibitors, , STING agonists, TLR agonists, Oncolytic viruses etc.)
    • Tuning suppressive tumor microenvironment (MDSCs,Tregs, CAFs etc.)
    • Evaluating and removing co-inhibitory signals/ checkpoints (PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA-4 ab)
  • Unique role of RNAi therapeutics in priming tumors and shaping TME (β-catenin/KRAS RNAi triggers)
  • Importance of careful selection of combination partners for an effective personized medicine
  • Examples of pre-clinical evaluations and discussion of how that can be translated into clinical settings

7:30 Coffee and Dessert Break

7:45 mRNA-based Cancer Immunotherapies: Vaccines and Encoding Immunomodulatory Proteins  

Sushma Gurumurthy, PhD, Associate Director, Oncology Research, Moderna

    • Modifying messenger RNA for therapeutic applications
    • Application of mRNA therapeutics in immunotherapy of cancer
          • Stimulate the immune system with personalized cancer vaccine approaches
          • Immunomodulatory approaches to activate immune system and transform tumor microenvironment

      8:30 TLR9 Agonist Spherical Nucleic Acids (SNA): Targeting the Tumor Microenvironment and Systemic Immune Activation for the Treatment of Immunogenic Cancers

      Weston Daniel, PhD, Senior Director Program Management, Exicure, Inc.

      • Spherical nucleic acids (SNA) for improved cellular delivery
      • Oligonucleotides targeting TLR9 for innate immune response activation
      • Significance of innate immune activation for immuno-oncology applications
      • AST-008 — a novel SNA for immuno-oncology applications
      • AST-008 preclinical and early clinical results

      9:15 Q&A with attendees

      9:30 End of Course


      Ganesh_ShanthiShanthi Ganesh, PhD, Associate Director, Preclinical Oncology, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

      As an Associate Director, Shanthi Ganesh leads the Oncology platform at Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, where she develops novel RNAi drugs and evaluates them in combination with targeted therapies and checkpoint inhibitors. Before joining Dicerna, as a Research Investigator at Novartis, she focused on utilizing RNAi therapeutics for multiple oncology targets, where she also led a targeted delivery platform to establish delivery of siRNA to tumor metastasis to demonstrate therapeutic efficacy. Prior to joining Novartis, she worked at two major Gene Therapy companies where she designed, developed and evaluated oncolytic viruses for treatment of cancer. Her work also contributed to the discovery of a systemically deliverable novel oncolytic virus and a new biotech company. She published extensively in siRNA and cancer therapeutics area. She also holds several patents and awards for her work in siRNA and oncology area. She has also been a member of ASCO and AACR for the last several years and attended and presented her work at several international conferences.

      Daniel_WestonWeston Daniel, PhD, Senior Director Program Management, Exicure, Inc.

      Wes is currently the Senior Director Program Management at Exicure and leads clinical development for the company. Wes has developed a number of clinical drug candidates in dermatology and oncology. Before his clinical development role, Wes held positions of increasing responsibility in Exicure's research group. He earned his PhD in chemistry at Northwestern University pursuing work related to Exicure's spherical nucleic platform and other nanoparticle diagnostics and therapeutics. Wes has 17 publications, 14 issued patents and dozens of patent applications.

      Sushma Gurumurthy, PhD, Associate Director, Oncology Research, Moderna

      Sushma is an Associate Director in Oncology Research in Moderna. She leads preclinical research for novel immunotherapy approaches in hematological malignancies. She has an extensive background in oncology research with several high profile publications and patents. She received her PhD in Toxicology/Cancer Research from the University of Kentucky and did her post-doctoral fellowship in Mass Gen Hospital Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School. 

      Japan-Flag Korea-Flag China-Simplified-Flag China-Traditional-Flag

      Oligonucleotide Discovery and Delivery