BIG 19

2019 Plenary Sessions



Great Hall (North), UBC Nest


PLENARY SESSION I (9:15-10:15)

Cooperation incarnate: How regulation and cheater detection stabilize cooperation from cells to human societies

Dr.   Athena Aktipis, MA, PhD  Arizona State University

Dr. Athena Aktipis, MA, PhD
Arizona State University

Cooperation is part of what defines us – as multicellular organisms, as social animals and as humans. As multicellular organisms, we are made of trillions of cooperating cells – we are literally cooperation incarnate. We cooperate with each other as well, sometimes without expecting anything in return. My work explores the question: Are there general principles that underlie cooperation across all systems, from cellular societies to human cooperation? In The Human Generosity Project, we incorporate computational modeling, experiments with human participants in the lab and work at nine fieldsites around the world to understand human sharing. In my work on cooperation and cheating in the evolution multicellularity, I focus on the question of how large multicellular bodies can evolve cooperation among trillions of cells despite the constant threat of cellular cheating, i.e., cancer. Cancer is essentially a breakdown of multicellular cooperation, and so cooperation theory is an essential tool for understanding why we get cancer and what we can do to better prevent and treat it. Across all of these systems, cheater detection and behavior regulation play important roles in stabilizing cooperation. In this talk I will discuss the fundamental principles of cooperation that span from cellular societies to human societies, and how these principles can be leveraged to improve human health and wellbeing.

PLENARY SESSION II (13:30-14:30)

Deciphering and re-engineering the immune response to cancer

Dr. Brad Nelson, PhD  Deeley Research Centre

Dr. Brad Nelson, PhD
Deeley Research Centre

Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) are associated with survival in virtually every human cancer, but the mechanisms by which they confer protective immunity remain incompletely understood. Focusing on ovarian cancer, our group applies genomic and molecular pathology approaches to define the mechanisms by which the human immune system responds to the evolving tumor genome over space and time. We find that optimal anti-tumor immunity involves interactions between T cells and antibody-producing B cells in the tumor microenvironment. We have evidence that T cell clones track tumor clones over space and time and apply selective pressure that leads to reduced tumor clone diversity and progressive loss of immune recognition through several mechanisms. Our findings suggest new strategies to overcome these challenges through T cell engineering and other approaches. Toward this goal, I will discuss BC Cancer’s new clinical trials program focused on T cell engineering strategies for gynecological and lymphoid cancers.