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CRI Scientists Honored With Five AACR Awards

March 16, 2015

Each year, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) presents awards to the individuals who have done the most to advance cancer research and treatment. This year’s recipients include five of CRI’s own.

Carl H. June, M.D., a CRI-Lustgarten grantee, member of our Scientific Advisory Council, and the program director of translational research at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, will receive the third annual AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology. The award was established in 2013 in honor of the late Lloyd J. Old, M.D., who is considered the “Father of Modern Tumor Immunology,” and was a longtime scientific director of CRI. The award is intended to recognize a cancer immunologist who, like Old, has had a far-reaching impact on the field. It is given jointly by AACR and CRI.

June is being recognized for his groundbreaking work on the development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy for cancer. CAR T cell therapy is a form of adoptive immunotherapy in which a patient’s immune cells are genetically engineered to make a protein composed of a cancer-targeting antibody on one end and a T cell signaling domain on the other. Using this method, June’s team at Penn has achieved complete responses in 90% of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and the approach is showing promise in other cancers as well.

Elizabeth M. Jaffee, M.D., will receive the AACR Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Research. Jaffee is a member of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council, a member of the CRI Trials Network, and a deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. She has extensive experience in the development of vaccines for breast and pancreatic cancers.

The Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research, which is presented to a scientist of international renown who has made a major scientific discovery in basic or translational research, will go to James P. Allison, Ph.D., the director of our Scientific Advisory Council and chairman of the immunology program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Allison is recognized for his work leading to the creation of the first checkpoint inhibitor, Yervoy® (ipilimumab), which the FDA approved in 2011 for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

David Baltimore, Ph.D., will receive the AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lecture, which recognizes outstanding science that has the potential to inspire creative thinking and new directions in cancer research. Baltimore is a Dream Team grantee, who won the Nobel Prize for his discoveries concerning the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell.

And Owen N. Witte, M.D., will receive the 55th Annual AACR G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award, which recognizes outstanding recent accomplishments in basic cancer research. Witte was a sponsor to six CRI postdoctoral fellows and was a grantee for his preclinical work on prostate cancer. He is the director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The five scientists will receive their awards at the annual AACR meeting to be held in Philadelphia, PA, April 18-22, 2015, where they will also give a plenary lecture.

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