Novel immunotherapeutic strategies to target the complex tumor immune microenvironment in head and neck cancer

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A symposium aiming to provide a better understanding of the tumor microenvironment, immune tolerogenic niches at cancer initiation, and novel immunotherapeutic strategies in head and neck cancer patients was featured at the 52nd Annual Meeting & Exhibition of the AADOCR, held in conjunction with the 47th Annual Meeting of the CADR. The AADOCR/CADR Annual Meeting & Exhibition took place at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland on March 15-18, 2023.

Cancer immunotherapy has arisen as a promising new treatment modality for head and neck cancer (HNC), built on an increased understanding of tumor immunology over the last two decades. However, it has become clear that not all tumors are created equal when it comes to their immune profiles, and many are resistant to immunotherapy. Thus, there is a need to better understand the complex tumor microenvironment to more accurately determine prognosis and design therapeutic strategies capable of rendering tumors susceptible to immunotherapy and the immunologic effects of conventional therapies.

Organized by Simon Young of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, this symposium provided a high-level overview of exciting developments in understanding the tumor microenvironment, both in terms of the complex immunosuppressive mechanics of the extracellular matrix, the creation of an immune tolerogenic niche at cancer initiation, and how novel immunotherapeutic strategies can target the adverse the tumor immune microenvironment in head and neck cancer. A broad spectrum of expertise was represented by featured clinician-scientist speakers: topics included current challenges in HNC surgical oncologic ablation strategies and formation of the immune tolerogenic niche at cancer initiation. This was followed by novel strategies to target fibrotic inflammation and biomaterial-based strategies for cancer immunotherapy and delivery of therapeutics to the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.

The symposium targeted dental students, post-graduate students, dentists, dentist-scientists, and scientists who wished to expand their knowledge of the tumor immune microenvironment and how cancer immunotherapy will impact head and neck cancer patients. This session was geared towards clinicians and researchers alike.

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