What to Know Before You Go

On April 5, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will welcome what is expected to be a record number of attendees to the San Diego Convention Center for the AACR Annual Meeting 2024. This year features more than 7,200 abstracts—another record for the meeting—along with six plenary sessions, seven focused “Advances” sessions, more than 50 major symposia, four clinical trial plenary sessions, over a dozen forums and special sessions, nearly 300 poster sessions, and much more. To help get the most out of your experience, here are a few important details to remember as you prepare for this year’s meeting. 

What’s the Theme? 

For the first time, the Program Committee has two chairs: Keith T. Flaherty, MD, FAACR, director of clinical research at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center; and Christina Curtis, PhD, MSc, RZ Cao professor of medicine, genetics, and biomedical data science at Stanford University. Considering each brings a different perspective—Curtis is a data scientist whose work spans fundamental discovery through to translation, and Flaherty works at the intersection of therapeutics and cancer biology—they wanted this year’s theme of “Inspiring Science, Fueling Progress, Revolutionizing Care” to reflect the full gamut of cancer research.  

“The meeting now spans everything from the earliest scientific discoveries regarding cancer initiation, how we think about early diagnosis and interception, all the way through to therapeutic advances,” Flaherty said. “The real magic of the meeting is to provide a format and opportunity where people can begin to expose themselves to emerging areas in which they are not currently deeply expert.”  

For example, data science, artificial intelligence, and technology will be featured among several sessions during the meeting, including within the new Advances in Technologies track. The Opening Plenary Session will also feature four distinguished experts touching on those areas in relation to understanding cancer biology, recognizing biomarkers, discovering new drug candidates, and developing next-generation cancer therapies. 

AACR President Philip D. Greenberg, MD, FAACR, identified another topic he felt more researchers should know about: Strategies to Effectively Communicate Science to the Public.  

“There’s a disconnect here between our understanding of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and how a very large fraction of the public perceives that,” Greenberg told AACR Annual Meeting News. “We need to understand how to explain that in ways that excite people, the same way we feel excited.” 

You can also catch a fireside chat with National Cancer Institute Director W. Kimryn Rathmell, learn about the role of weight loss drugs in breaking the obesity-cancer link, check out the Presidential Select Symposium on “Cancer Immunotherapy—Where Do We Go from Here?” and attend so many other exciting sessions.  

Plus, this year also offers the opportunity to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Women in Cancer Research (WICR), as well as see a performance from The Checkpoints—a band composed of immunology and cancer scientists—at the AACR Annual Reception (be sure to pick up your ticket for a complimentary beverage at AACR Central). 

Plan Ahead 

Given the breadth of topics that will be covered over six days, consider perusing the full program ahead of time to identify sessions that most interest you. Either browse through the online program planner or download the AACR Annual Meeting App where you can login (using your last name and the seven-digit Registration ID number found in your confirmation email) and set your itinerary.  

A PDF program guide will also be made available by April 4, which will contain the titles of all invited presentations as well as the names of the chairs and speakers for each session. Please note, there will not be a printed version of the program guide this year.  

You can also learn more about each exhibitor that will be in attendance and check out the floor plan, so you can prepare for which exhibitors you may want to meet over the course of the meeting. 

How to Follow Along Virtually  

Whether you are attending in person or opted for virtual access, you will have access to the Virtual Meeting Platform, which will be available starting April 4. All sessions held in the Convention Center will be live streamed—this includes all scientific sessions but omits ancillary events such as career development sessions and town halls. As a reminder, both in-person and virtual access to the Educational Sessions and Methods Workshops requires the purchase of an Educational Program Pass.  

All of the sessions that are live streamed will be available to view on the virtual platform within 60 minutes of concluding. The recordings will remain on the platform until July 10. 

No matter how you attend, be sure to share your experience on social media and use the hashtag #AACR24. And stay updated on what is happening by following the AACR on X, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Just be sure not to post anything from sessions that the presenters have marked as “DO NOT POST” (or any similar language). 

Career Advancement and Networking 

The AACR Annual Meeting 2024 is not only an opportunity to learn about the latest in cancer research, but it represents a great chance to find your next job or develop the skills needed to further your career. Professional Advancement Sessions include topics on grant writing, productive peer review, navigating the path to success, and building an effective mentorship. Additionally, two Entrepreneurship Sessions will help you better understand how to find investors for your idea and interact with regulatory agencies.  

The AACR Cancer and Biomedical Research Career Fair will take place on April 6 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. You can register to attend at CancerCareers.org. A bonus for those who upload their CVs/resumes to CancerCareers.org prior to the fair: You will be entered to win prizes, such as an Apple iPad, a $300 American Express gift card, and a set of second generation AirPods Pro. Additional CancerCareers Hub events will be held April 7–10.  

The Victoria’s Secret Global Fund for Women’s Cancers is once again sponsoring the Women and Power Workshop: Advancing and Securing Your Career in Science in partnership with AACR-WICR and Pelotonia. Space is limited, so apply for your spot ahead of time. 

The AACR Annual Meeting 2024 also marks the 10th anniversary of the AACR NextGen Stars program, in which early-career researchers apply to give presentations in a Major Symposium or Advances Session. Be sure not to miss the presentations from the 2024 NextGen Stars.  

Fundraising Events 

The 2024 AACR Runners for Research 5K Run/Walk will bring together cancer scientists, survivors, advocates, and local runners in San Diego on April 6 to support active lifestyles while raising funds that go towards advancing cancer research. Baseball fans can also enjoy a trip to Petco Park on April 9 for Cancer Research Night With the San Diego Padres, sponsored by the AACR. A portion of the proceeds for this game against the Chicago Cubs will go to supporting cancer research. Your ticket purchase also includes a limited-edition friendship bracelet set. 

Additional Resources 

Nursing mothers will have access to two Mother’s Lounges in the Convention Center: one located in the Hall B1 Lobby and one in the Hall E Lobby. Childcare services will be administered by KiddieCorp in Room 13 of the Convention Center. Additionally, attendees can enjoy breaks in the wellness lounges, found within the exhibit hall, featuring massage stations, therapy dogs, and spa water. The exhibit hall will also have a headshot lounge, charging stations, and concession stands to help fulfill other various needs of attendees. 

Of course, attendees won’t want to miss the biggest news to come from the meeting and to read about the sessions they couldn’t make. AACR Annual Meeting News, which serves as the official news source of the meeting, will send out daily updates to all registrants as well as three post-meeting editions. Go to the newsroom section of the AACR website for news releases on the latest scientific studies and meeting announcements. Finally, subscribe to the official blog of the AACR, Cancer Research Catalyst, for more alerts from the meeting and updates on the latest breakthroughs in cancer research throughout the year. 


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