The 31st annual Canadian Society for Immunology (CSI) conference was held this year from June 1st to June 4th at Western University in London, Ontario, also known as the “Forest City”. The meeting took place on Western’s beautiful limestone campus. This was the first CSI meeting hosted by the school, and the organizing committee from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Western welcomed us with open arms, providing a socially and intellectually engaging four days.


The meeting kicked off with a fantastic keynote address by Dr. Giorgio Trinchieri from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, USA. Throughout the years, Dr. Trinchieri and his team have focused on the role of inflammation, innate resistance, and more recently, the role of commensal microbiota in carcinogenesis, cancer progression and therapy. The group is hopeful that one day they will be able to predict whether patients are likely to respond to cancer therapies based on their microbiota composition. Dr. Trinchieri’s team suggest that in the future, modifications of the microbiota using probiotics, diet modifications and fecal or defined microbiota transplants, could be utilized to help improve patients’ responses to cancer treatment. However, presently, his group is still trying to figure out exactly what a favorable microbiota is and the best procedure to change it.


The conference’s first symposium shed light on how an aging immune system copes with infections and the resulting implications for vaccination. Dr. Graham Pawelec (University of Tuebingen), who co-chaired this symposium with Dr. Janet McElhaney (Health Sciences North Research Institute), started the morning off discussing his research on the immunosenescence of the human immune system. Dr. Dawn Bowdish (McMcaster University) showed that chronic TNF contributes to myeloid cell dysfunction and age-related tissue damage in older mice. Interestingly, a bone marrow transfer from young TNF knock-out mice protected aged mice. Next, the observation of a senescence-associated secretory phenotype in obese youth, and lean and obese elderly presented by Dr. Daniela Frasca (University of Miami) highlighted how obesity may affect inflammation. She also showed data on how single nucleotide polymorphisms of LEPTIN are associated with a decreased response to the influenza vaccine and an increase in inflammation.

Drs. George Kuchel (UConn Center on Aging) and Janet McElhaney each presented their work pertaining to their joint effort in reducing the impact of influenza infections on older adults. To do this, their groups are examining the relationship between aging, vaccination type, and immune response. Specifically, Dr. Kuchel presented a study in which older adults were given rapamacyin, an mTOR inhibitor, prior to receiving the influenza vaccine, resulting in increased antibody titers and decreased PD-1 expression on CD8+ T cells. Dr. McElhaney complemented this work by presenting data on the decline of CD8+ cytotoxic lymphocytes with age, and the potential use of TLR agonists to stimulate innate cells to make IL-2 and IL-6 to maintain healthy CD8 T cells.


The second symposium explored the ins and outs of T cell development. Dr. Troy Baldwin (University of Alberta) showed how anergy selection leads to the conversion of double positive thymocytes into non-conventional T cell subsets, identifying a novel role for NuR77 in the development of tolerance-induced non-conventional T cells. Dr. Michele Anderson (Sunnybrook Research Institute) discussed the regulation of gamma-delta T cell programming by the HeLa E-Box binding protein through the Sox-RORγT network. Next up in the T cell talks was Dr. Kristin A. Hogquist (University of Minnesota) who dove deep into T cell development with a talk aptly named “Thymus Selection of Soldiers and Peacekeepers” focusing on how selection shapes the T cell repertoire. Dr. Lauren Ehrlich (University of Texas) continued the symposium by capturing our attention with some beautiful images, courtesy of 2-photon microsco-py, demonstrating that both medullary thymic epithelial cells and dendritic cells contribute to thymocyte selection. Dr. Peter Savage (University of Chicago) discovered distinct prostate protein-derived epitopes for natural regulatory T cells that are prevalent in prostate tumours, and prostatic autoimmune lesions. The second symposium was concluded by Dr. Heather Melichar (L’Université de Montréal) on how AIRE-dependent and independent tissue restricted antigen expression induce distinct autoreactive T cell fates.


The last symposium of the conference focused on the basic mechanisms and clinical opportunities for cancer immunotherapy. Dr. Julian Lum (University of Victoria) discussed the role of T cell metabolism and autophagy in adoptive cell therapy. Next, Dr. Weiping Zou (University of Michigan) showed how the presence of Fusobacterium in the tumour microenvironment contributes to chemo-resistance in colorectal cancer by blocking the apoptotic pathways that chemotherapy aims to activate. The tumour microenvironment was also addressed by Dr. Tracy McGaha (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre) who highlighted how cellular stress detector GCN2 contributes to immunosuppression associated with solid tumours. Dr. Khashayarsha Khazaie (Mayo Clinic) showed how regulatory T cells become pro-inflammatory through RORγT expression and promote tumour growth and metastasis in colorectal cancer. Last, and certainly not least, Dr. Pamela Ohashi (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre) presented some data collected by the on-going INSPIRE phase 2 clinical trial of pembrolizumab (anti-PD-1) as a single agent to treat a variety of cancers including squamous cell carci-noma of the head and neck, triple negative breast cancer, high grade ovarian cancer, melanoma and advanced solid tumours.

In true CSI tradition, ample opportunities existed for trainees to present their research and network. Dr. Jonathan Yewdellfrom the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases led a career development session on “How to Succeed in Science Without Really Trying”. Rounding off the conference were poster sessions, workshops on leukocyte development, activation and signaling, host-pathogen interactions, immune-mediated diseases, and tumor immunology, immunotherapy and vaccination.


CSI 2018 was made possible with the generous support of several sponsors: BioLegend (Gold Sponsor), Miltenyi and Stem Cell Technologies (Silver Sponsors), Adaptive Biotechnologies and Sony (Bronze Sponsors), Cedarlane, ImmunoPrecise, and the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry (General Sponsors), and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (Educational Sponsor). Representatives from Miltenyi, Stem Cell Technologies, Sony, and Adaptive Biotechnologies introduced their new and improved cell separation, cell sorting, and immunosequencing techniques. Karen Morley from Biolegend introduced CSI attendees to Biolegend’s exciting new TotalSeq method used to simultaneously measure RNA and protein.

Congratulations are in order for this year’s award winners. Dr. Michael Grant (Memorial University of Newfoundland) received the Hardy Cinader Award for his scientific and leadership contributions to the immunology community. The John D. Reynolds Award was given to our very own Dr. Tania Watts (University of Toronto) for her continued service to the CSI. Dr. Megan K. Levings (University of British Columbia), and Dr. Martin J. Richer (McGill University) received the CSI Investigator Award, and CSI New Investigator Award, respectively. Additional congratulations go out to all the travel and poster award winners.

Finally, the efforts and contributions of all organizers that made CSI 2018 such a success shall not go unmentioned. A big thank you to Lori Coulthurst and the CSI organizing committee from Western University: Dr. Mansour Haeryfar, Dr. Lisa Cameron, Dr. Rodney DeKoter, Dr. Lakshman Gunaratnam, Dr. Bhagirath Singh, and Dr. Kelly Summers. Congratulations on a successful conference!

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