The Cancer Research Institute, Inc. (CRI), a U.S. nonprofit organization established in 1953 to advance the science of tumor immunology and drive the discovery of new cancer immunotherapies, announced today the winners of the 2011 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology. CRI bestows this annual award, considered the Nobel Prize in tumor immunology, upon one or more scientists whose discoveries in the fields of immunology or tumor immunology significantly contribute to the advancement of immune system-based therapies for cancer.
This year, the Coley Award goes jointly to Philip D. Greenberg, M.D., professor of medicine and immunology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and head of the program in immunology at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, and Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD, and professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC, for their pioneering work to bring adoptive T cell therapy from its experimental foundations in the laboratory, through proof of concept, to its successful application in the clinic as a treatment for cancer.
Exploiting the power and specificity of the immune system to fight cancer has been a long-held goal of tumor immunology. In this effort, T cells have been the focus of intense study because of their ability to eliminate threats within the body, such as virally infected or malignant cells, effectively and with such specificity that normal, healthy tissue remains unharmed. Since the early 1980s, when Drs. Greenberg and Rosenberg first showed that the adoptive transfer of T cells—in which T cells are harvested from the body, grown to vast numbers in the laboratory, and then re-infused—could cause significant tumor regressions in experimental systems, this approach has represented an important avenue of inquiry for scientists seeking to effectively harness the power of T cells to treat cancer in human patients.
“For more than 30 years, Drs. Greenberg and Rosenberg led the vanguard of adoptive T cell therapy, and their many contributions to this field have opened up important new avenues for the immunologic treatment of cancer,” says Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs at CRI. “More recently, their work and that of their colleagues has demonstrated that adoptive T cell transfer can produce potent anti-cancer immune responses, including dramatic remissions in some patients with melanoma and sarcoma. These clinical results demonstrate the potential of adoptive T cell therapy, and, we predict, are precursors to future successes in broader cancer patient populations.”
The Coley Award is one of the highest honors bestowed to scientists in recognition of seminal discoveries in immunology and tumor immunology research. Since CRI established the Coley Award in 1975, it has been presented to 81 outstanding scientists, many of whom have gone on to win prestigious awards including the Gairdner Prize, National Medal of Science, Lasker Award, and Nobel Prize. As such, many consider the Coley Award both as a marker for the most important scientific developments in the history of cancer immunotherapy and as a predictor of future impact of these discoveries on human health.
“In receiving the Coley Award, Drs. Greenberg and Rosenberg join a distinguished group of researchers whose work not only has deepened our understanding of the immune system and its response to cancer, but has also, collectively, helped to lay the essential scientific foundation for the now rapidly growing field of cancer immunotherapy,” says Lloyd J. Old, M.D., director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council.
Drs. Greenberg and Rosenberg will receive their awards at CRI’s 25th Annual Awards Dinner to be held the evening of October 3 at 583 Park Avenue in New York City. Also presented at the Dinner will be the 2011 Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology to Stephen C. Jameson, Ph.D., a former CRI postdoctoral fellowship recipient whose work has shed important light on the mechanisms of T cell activation and differentiation, and the 2011 Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research to Mitchell H. Gold, M.D., president and CEO of Dendreon Corporation, and to celebrated film and television producer Laura Ziskin, who will receive the award posthumously. 2011 marks the first year that all three awards will be presented at the same event.
Cancer Research Institute