The 2021 Virtual NET Research Symposium – Summary/Recap

The fourteenth annual NETRF Research Symposium successfully concluded last month with over 300 registered virtual attendees participating from around the globe for the second year in a row. The meeting included nearly 60 talks and posters representing the cutting edge of NET research where investigators reported their latest data and discoveries to share and discuss with colleagues. This year posters were available for viewing over the three days preceding the two-day meeting, resulting in over 300 poster views and ample time for discussions. Over 95% of registrants attended the two-days of talks and live discussions while the recorded talks and posters were viewed by over 100 more attendees over the following week. 

The presented research was more diverse than ever, reflecting the diverse biological processes underlying the different types of NETs and their different treatment options. This diversity reflects NETRF’s investment in tackling each NET type from different angles, moving towards personalizing their distinctive treatments. For the first time, the meeting sessions were organized by the major NET types where each talk and poster session contained a wide range of basic to clinical research focused on a specific type of NET and NET patient. These included Gastro-Intestinal and Pancreatic NETs, as well as Pheo/Para and Lung NETs, reflecting the recent expansion of NETRF’s research scope. The overwhelming majority of researchers appreciated this new format and found the science to be outstanding.  More than half of participating researchers established new connections and collaborations at the meeting that will manifest in the sharing of NET reagents, models, and data relevant to their own studies.

There were significant scientific advances reported at the meeting, and some of the most exciting, included advances in immunotherapy as well as ways to improve on current therapies, such as PRRT, and ways to broaden treatment strategies to expand the NET patient population that may benefit from them. While many genes involved with NETs have been identified, much work was presented on how these genes work through different cellular pathways contributing to NETs. These include effects on metabolic, developmental, and DNA repair processes in NETs. Importantly, these presentations pointed to new vulnerabilities in NET cells and potentially novel targets for therapeutic intervention. Each NET type session included research developing new NET models. NET models are critical for exploring the clinical relevance of identified NET cell vulnerabilities and testing new potential therapeutics. The importance of these models is highlighted by a wonderful overview of the Symposium’s topics provided by Dr. Eric Nakakura. Given the need to develop new NET treatment options, the reports presented at this year’s Symposium are especially encouraging.

Lastly, there was a special session presentation,” The Scientists Behind the Science” that highlighted members of NETRF’s illustrious Board of Scientific Advisors (BOSA) over the years. It also acknowledged the invaluable contributions of Drs. Daniel Chung and George Fisher who served as BOSA Co-Chairs over the last 6 years and introduced Drs. Dawn Quelle and Chrissie Thirlwell as the new BOSA Co-Chairs to help guide the future BOSA’s efforts. We look forward to the many NET discoveries and advances that will be revealed in 2022 as these studies, together with newly-awarded NETRF research projects, all move forward.