Key leaders in academic and industry science to head global initiative to accelerate cancer immunotherapy development
NEW YORK, NY – November 8, 2011 – The Cancer Research Institute, Inc. (CRI), a U.S. nonprofit organization established in 1953 to advance therapeutic strategies to harness the power of the immune system to treat and cure cancer, today announced that James P. Allison, Ph.D., chair of the immunology program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Axel Hoos, M.D., Ph.D., medical lead in immunology/oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb, have been named directors of the CRI Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium (CIC), the premier academic-industry association dedicated to advancing the emerging field of immuno-oncology and accelerating the development pathway to bring safe and effective cancer immunotherapies to patients sooner. Drs. Allison and Hoos are highly regarded in the cancer immunotherapy field for their key roles in the creation and development of the anti-CTLA-4 antibody ipilimumab (Yervoy™). Yervoy, which was developed based on laboratory and preclinical studies conducted by Dr. Allison in the 1990s, was approved by the FDA in March 2011 for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. In their new appointments, Dr. Allison and Dr. Hoos succeed Lloyd J. Old, M.D., who served as CIC director since CRI assumed leadership of the association in 2008.
“Jim Allison and Axel Hoos personify the values and dedication that it takes to bridge the academic-industry divide to translate a basic discovery in the laboratory into an FDA-approved treatment for patients,” says Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, CRI’s chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs. “With them at the lead, the Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium is poised to significantly extend its influence to forge new initiatives and partnerships that will achieve tangible results in speeding the development pathway for new cancer immunotherapies for patients.”
As part of CRI’s continuum of initiatives to advance new immune-based therapies for cancer, the Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium focuses on the methodological and regulatory issues in later stage drug development. To date, the CIC has spearheaded global efforts to harmonize the use of immunological assays in clinical trials, develop a standard reporting framework to enable meaningful interpretation and comparison of data from these trials, establish a new paradigm for cancer immunotherapy clinical development and trial design, and propose new response criteria to enable better evaluation of therapeutic efficacy in clinical trials. Together, these have resulted in a comprehensive framework for cancer immunotherapy development, outlined last month by the CIC and its partnering organization, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT), in a joint white paper published in Nature Biotechnology.
“The development of Yervoy and others in this new class of cancer treatments that target immune checkpoints and mechanisms of tumor-induced immune suppression highlights how much we have learned in just the past few years about the immune system and its response to cancer,” says Dr. Hoos. “Along with that, we have made key observations in the clinic that have required completely new thinking about the tools and models we use to test these therapies. Through consensus-driven and results-oriented initiatives, the CIC has worked to systematically address and overcome the methodological and regulatory challenges in cancer immunotherapy development, culminating in a comprehensive roadmap to guide the entire field. As we continue to refine this framework, we look forward to building on our role as the field’s foremost resource in providing solution-oriented strategies to enhance success in cancer immunotherapy development.”
The appointments of Drs. Allison and Hoos as directors of the CIC marks the completion of a historic change in leadership across CRI’s programs. These include the appointment in October 2011 of Dr. Allison as the new director of CRI’s Scientific Advisory Council, as well as his appointment as Editor-in-Chief of Cancer Immunity, the online, open-access journal of the Academy of Cancer Immunology. In addition, earlier this year, Jedd D. Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D., director of immunotherapy clinical trials at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and an associate director of the CRI SAC, was named director of the Cancer Vaccine Collaborative (CVC), the global cancer vaccine clinical trials network established by CRI and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in 2001. Dr. Wolchok also serves on the CIC’s twelve-member executive committee, along with Drs. Allison, Hoos, and O’Donnell-Tormey.
“As the world’s leading organization dedicated to funding and coordinating laboratory and clinical studies in immunology and cancer immunology,” says Dr. Allison, “Cancer Research Institute has achieved a level of influence and expertise that is unsurpassed in the field. As director of the Institute’s Scientific Advisory Council and as co-director of its Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium, I look forward to working with Dr. Hoos, Dr. Wolchok, and other members of CRI’s leadership to ensure that the Institute’s programs continue to work in synergy to accelerate new knowledge that will lead to better, safer, and more effective immunotherapies for more cancer patients.”
Brian Brewer, Director of Marketing & Communications
Cancer Research Institute
(212) 688-7515, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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—are being evaluated for their potential to be more targeted, more effective, and less toxic than today’s standard approaches for 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://cancerresearch.org/cic.