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25th Annual CRI Awards Dinner Honors Outstanding Contributions to Cancer Immunotherapy

Laura Ziskin, Hollywood producer and cancer awareness advocate, receives posthumous award for service in advancing cancer research

NEW YORK, NY – October 21, 2011 – The Cancer Research Institute, Inc. (CRI), a U.S. nonprofit organization established in 1953 to transform cancer patient care through the development of safe and effective strategies to harness the immune system to fight cancer, hosted its 25th Annual Awards Dinner on Monday, October 3, 2011, where 290 guests joined CRI in celebrating outstanding scientific achievements in the field of tumor immunology and honoring successful patient health, public education, and cancer research initiatives. The dinner raised $625,000 for the organization.

"Since its first awards dinner in 1975, CRI has sought to honor individuals who have made pioneering, often overlooked advances in our understanding of how the immune system interacts with and can be harnessed to fight cancer," says CRI chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs Jill O'Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D. "Today, the field of tumor immunology is producing significant advances in the treatment of cancer, as seen with the ongoing development of cancer vaccines and antibodies capable of helping patients live longer."

CRI presented the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology jointly to Philip D. Greenberg, M.D., and Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., for their pioneering work in the development of adoptive immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. Greenberg is a professor of medicine (oncology) and immunology at the University of Washington and head of the immunology program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. Rosenberg is head of tumor immunology and chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

In presenting the Coley Award to Drs. Greenberg and Rosenberg, CRI Scientific Advisory Council director James P. Allison, Ph.D., recalled the announcement made earlier that day that three immunologists—Bruce Beutler, Jules Hoffmann, and Ralph Steinman—received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, signaling not only that immunology is now widely recognized as central to efforts to combat disease, but also that CRI’s Coley Award is an indicator of future Nobel Prize winners: all three of this year’s Nobel laureates are past Coley Award winners, bringing the total of past Coley Award recipients who later won the Nobel to six. Many other Coley Award winners have won other major scientific prizes, including the Albert Lasker Award (often called the "American Nobel"), Canada Gairdner Award, Shaw Prize (the "Nobel of the East"), Albany Medical Center Prize, and Keio Prize.

"Cancer medicine is undergoing a major transformation as cancer vaccines and other immunotherapies become a larger part of standard patient care," says Paul C. Shiverick, co-chairman of the CRI Board of Trustees. "It’s not just the champions of science who have helped to make this revolution possible; it’s also the industry leaders, philanthropists, and cancer awareness advocates who draw attention to the field who deserve recognition for their efforts."

To honor such individuals, CRI also presented the Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research to Mitchell H. Gold, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Dendreon Corporation, for his role in steering the company through regulatory review and approval of the first FDA approved therapeutic cancer vaccine, Provenge®. The approval has been hailed as a major advance for the field. Also receiving the Grace Award was Laura Ziskin, a Hollywood producer and studio executive who, after being diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in 2004, helped to launch and produce Stand Up To Cancer, a televised fund raising and awareness campaign organized and endorsed by members of the entertainment industry. Tragically, she lost her life to cancer earlier this year. CRI trustee and Ziskin’s longtime friend and colleague James A. Wiatt presented the award posthumously, and Ziskin’s daughter, Julia Barry, graciously accepted the award on her mother’s behalf.

Ellen Puré, Ph.D., associate director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council, presented the 2011 Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology to former CRI postdoctoral fellow Stephen C. Jameson, Ph.D., for his seminal contributions to our understanding of immune cell development and activation. Jameson, who received a CRI fellowship in 1988, is now a professor in the department of laboratory medicine and pathology at the Center for Immunology at the University of Minnesota.

Many current CRI postdoctoral fellows and predoctoral students also attended the dinner, affording them an opportunity to meet CRI’s scientific leadership, trustees, and staff, and allowing dinner guests the chance to interact directly with CRI-funded scientists. Viveka Mayya, Ph.D., a first-year CRI fellow in the laboratory of Michael L. Dustin, Ph.D., at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University Medical Center, says his experience at the dinner profoundly affected how he views his work in the lab.

"This dinner gave me a new perspective on the potential of my basic laboratory work to impact cancer patients," says Mayya. "It was wonderful to hear how CRI is applying immunology to change cancer treatment, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that."

The dinner also marked the launch of The WHITE Campaign, CRI’s campaign to increase awareness of the potential for cancer immunotherapy to treat and cure all types of cancer. Attendees at the event wore WHITE ribbons in support of CRI’s efforts to advance this new approach to cancer treatment.

"The Cancer Research Institute is focused on creating a new class of treatment—immunotherapy—that can potentially benefit all cancer patients, no matter what type of cancer they have," says O’Donnell-Tormey. "There are many different colors representing different cancers, and WHITE brings all those colors together under a unified vision for improving the life of every cancer patient."

CRI thanks DeMarco Morgan, anchor/reporter for NBC4 New York, for his outstanding service as master of ceremonies during the dinner. CRI also thanks dinner co-chairs John Fitzgibbons, Don Gogel, Paul Sekhri, Paul Shiverick, and Jim Wiatt, for helping to make the dinner such a success.


Photos are available online at http://bit.ly/CRIdinner2011.
All images copyright Cancer Research Institute.
Photography credit: Barbara Nitke.

Event Contact
Lynne Harmer, Director of Special Events
events@cancerresearch.org or (212) 688-7515, ext. 226

Media Contact
Brian Brewer, Director of Marketing & Communications
bbrewer@cancerresearch.org or (212) 688-7515, ext. 242

About Cancer Immunotherapy
Cancer immunotherapies are designed to boost the immune system’s ability to find and destroy cancer cells and control tumor growth. These immunotherapies—including immune-modulating monoclonal antibodies, therapeutic cancer vaccines, and other interventions to overcome tumor-induced immunosuppression or to potentiate the anti-tumor immune response—have the potential to be more targeted, more effective, and less toxic than today’s standard approaches to fighting this disease.

In the past two years, two active immunotherapies for cancer—the therapeutic cancer vaccine Provenge® for advanced prostate cancer and the Yervoy™ monoclonal antibody "immune checkpoint blockade" for metastatic melanoma—have received approval by the U.S. FDA, and several dozen others are in the pipeline, with an expected total of five active immunotherapies to receive FDA approval by 2015. For more information on the promise and pipeline of cancer immunotherapies, visit http://www.cancerresearch.org.

About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world’s only nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to transforming cancer patient care by advancing scientific efforts to develop new and effective immune system-based strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and eventually cure all cancers. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes three Nobel laureates and 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested $282 million in support of research conducted by immunologists and tumor immunologists at the world’s leading medical centers and universities, and has contributed to many of the key scientific advances that demonstrate the potential for immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment. To learn more, go to www.cancerresearch.org