Lowell T. Harmison, Ph.D.
Senior Executive Adviser
I am honored to be here and see so many colleagues and other
distinguished guests at this symposium. We are grateful for
this excellent location here at the Tokyo-American Club in
the very heart of the Japanese capital?where the motto is?gthe
place where Tokyo intersects.h It is the hub of international
activity and we shall add to this fine tradition today.
I am delighted to add my welcome to each of you and to open
this first Dendritic Cell Vaccine International Cancer Vaccine
Symposium. The Hasumi International Research Foundation is
indebted to the stellar group of speakers we have here. I
want to note that meetings do not happen without great commitment
and sacrifice on the part of the individuals participating
in terms of their research and the amount of time it takes
to travel. Also, I want to express deep appreciation to Dr.
Hasumi and the Foundation for sponsoring and making possible
this opportunity to come together and address the many scientific
questions related to understanding and advancing Dendritic
We all know too well the incredible toll that cancer places
on individuals, families and society. To open this symposium,
I would like to make four points concerning cancer and give
a brief introductory statement.
My first point is that cancer is more than just a disease.
It has been described in the history of medicine since the
earliest medical records were kept. What has grown up around
efforts to solve this five thousand year old-plus mystery
is nothing short of a remarkable monument of achievement to
science and society. This global cancer monument of achievement
blends together the confluence of patent and family expectations,
history, science, philosophy and different cultures around
the world. All of these interests are working in a synergistic
way to reduce the burden of cancer. Clear and indisputable
progress has been made in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
But, this progress is not without limitations at the patient
level. It has brought us several dilemmas.
My second point concerns these dilemmas. The first dilemma
involves the gaps between true knowledge and ignorance about
cancer. This dilemma often puts us on a path that takes us
on many illuminated but blind alleys of research and clinical
trials. This is not bad. It is a part of the reality that
confronts scientists and clinicians alike in unraveling the
unknown. It is a part of defining information pieces that
fit and/or do not fit in coming to the knowledge base and
tools to reduce the burden of cancer. The second gap is between
the knowhow and capacity of science and medicine in Medical
Centers and what is actually available to diagnose, treat
and reduce the burden of cancer in the community at the treatment
level. This gap poses a constant struggle between an assessment
of what works, might work and/or has the promise to impact
quality of life and health outcomes. The work on filling in
these two gaps to bridge aspirations is an overwhelming challenge
to all involved in this global cancer effort/network to defeat
and make cancer an uncommon, treatable disease.
This brings me to my third point. What is the needed stimulus
for advancement? As we know, all medical capacities must come
together in the diagnosis and treatment of the patient. Cancer,
in most of its forms, and other diseases do not comply with
the dictums and principles of just one professional discipline
such as oncology. Treatments over time have demonstrated that
we must also go beyond looking at a given drug and its response;
we must understand and develop insights into the pathogenesis,
immunological factors and immune system of the individual
The medical and scientific communities were jolted and given
a powerful stimulant by HIV/AIDS in 1981. To illustrate, in
the last twenty years, the HIV stimulus has put in perspective
the strength of any notions that successful vaccines and therapies
could be rapidly developed. Here we are on another World AIDS
Day (December 1, 2001) with over 40 million people HIV positive
worldwide and a rapidly growing epidemic. It is a sobering
reminder of the limitations of our knowledge of the immune
system and its responses to different stimuli. Nevertheless,
this reality check has given us some enormous progress toward
understanding these immune mechanisms.
Now, my fourth point is about innovation and thinking outside
the box of conventional thinking. It is time, in fact it is
past the time to be innovative and to get novel, imaginative
and creative concerning improved cancer treatments. The basis
of my statement rests on cancer survival and true outcomes.
It is clear that extensive trials with many chemofs and radiation
and/or combinations of these in various forms, concentrations,
doses and means of delivery are not doing the job. Metastatic
disease and recurrent disease statistics reveal the sad truth
and limitations of many mainstream approaches. It is confirmed
in the real world when FDA cannot decide how QOL data should
be treated in the approval process or ASCO just bring QOL
studies and immunotherapies into the wings of meetings instead
of center stage. When we look at all of this, it tells us
that we must dare to be innovative and novel or, stated another
way, we must think outside the box of conventional thinking
because more of the same will not cut it.
This is the point of the International Cancer Vaccine Symposium
devoted to dendritic cell based vaccines. The potential of
new cancer vaccines extends a real challenge to scientists
and clinicians to capture this potential and give new hope
to cancer patients and all those touched by cancer.
Without a doubt, the cancer vaccine landscape is changing
rapidly because of our expanding genetic and molecular knowledge
base. It is providing new insights into mechanisms and understanding
of tumor responses. I am confident that the scientific exchange
and discussions throughout this day will help us interpret
the current status and appreciate new and promising avenues
for dendritic cell research. What is very clear is that, given
the tools we have and the limitations of cytotoxic therapy,
we need to have focus and commitment to success in this area
by incorporating the contributions of the many disciplines
essential for progress.
Nothing is so exciting and rewarding as to see a field mature
and deliver definitive research and clinical leads to combat
cancer. This symposium will give breadth and depth to the
progress of dendritic cellular research and vaccines. As I
have noted, for much of the last fifty years, very little
consideration has been given to immunotherapy and immunological
responses to tumors. The prime exception is that of Hasumi
Vaccines which have extended benefits to tens of thousands
Much has changed in the last decade as scientific leads and
definitive information about the genetic and molecular basis
of dendritic cell and tumor cell interactions have developed.
The exploding base of information on cellular regulation and
pathways as well as the ability to genetically modify cells
and cellular components has given us a new level of understanding
and expectation for dendritic cell based vaccines. Pivotal
dendritic cell research and vaccine information will be the
topic of our speakers during the course of this symposium.
The scientific underpinning for this rests on our understanding
of protein-protein interaction, genes and genetic encoding
and response to cancer antigens.
As I have noted, it is important to enter these discussions
with the knowledge that tumor vaccines and imunotherapies
have begun to creep into the mainstream of cancer research
and early clinical consideration. This situation is bolstered
by the fact that invasive and growing tumors can undergo regression
and possibly complete regression through vaccines and immunotherapies.
This conference is about providing insights into how the
dendritic cell works and how this information can help us
to better understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms
to contain tumor cells, avoid tolerance and escape from detection
and killing. This is the beginning of a new era for dendritic
cell vaccine-based cancer immunotherapeutic approaches. We
look forward to an exciting day of presentations from this
stellar panel of investigators. Therefore, I am delighted
to get this symposium underway.
December 2, 2001