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Scientific American Taps CRI Leader to Explain Immunotherapy

April 30, 2014 | Matthew Tontonoz

Many years ago, in 1977, a young cancer doctor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center published an article in Scientific American called, "Cancer Immunology." With that article—the first of several that he would publish in the magazine over his career—Lloyd J. Old introduced a generation of readers to the idea that the immune system could recognize and fight cancer.

"He explained that tumor cells have these tags, these foreign tags that identify them as tumor," says Nicholas Restifo, a prominent cancer immunologist at the National Cancer Institute, who remembers reading Old’s article at the age of 16. "I thought that was pretty neat."

For more than 40 years, Dr. Old was the medical director of the Cancer Research Institute (CRI). During that time, he served as a mentor to countless young tumor immunologists who all wanted to study with the "father of modern tumor immunology."

One young aspirant was 19-year-old Jedd Wolchok, who spent the summer after his first year of college conducting research in Old’s lab. Wolchok would eventually return to Sloan-Kettering as a bright star in his own right.

Currently the Lloyd J. Old Chair for Clinical Investigation at Sloan-Kettering, Wolchok is in many ways continuing the work that Dr. Old began. Like his predecessor, Wolchok directs CRI’s clinical program, including its international clinical trials network. A leading physician-scientist, Wolchok is pioneering the testing of combination immunotherapies for patients with cancer. 

Fittingly, Wolchok has also penned an updated article on cancer immunotherapy for a new generation of Scientific American readers, in which he discusses the field’s recent advances using checkpoint antibodies to release the brakes on the immune response to cancer. You can read the article, entitled "Cancer's Off Switch," here, and also watch an accompanying video.

Dr. Wolchok will be appearing in a TedxTimesSquare Talk on Friday, May 2. Tune in and check it out.


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