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Cancer Research Institute to Honor Outstanding Contributions to Basic and Tumor Immunology Research

Three Scientists to Receive Top Awards at the Institute’s 29th Annual Awards Dinner

The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to fueling the discovery and development of immunotherapies for all forms of cancer, will bestow its highest honors on three scientists who have made fundamental contributions to the fields of immunology and cancer immunotherapy. The award ceremony will take place at the Institute’s 29th Annual Awards Dinner on Wednesday, September 17, 2015, at The Metropolitan Club in New York City.

CRI will present the 2015 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology to Glenn Dranoff, MD, for his many contributions to the development of cancer immunotherapies, including the design and testing of the therapeutic cancer vaccine called GVAX. In work done in mice, Dr. Dranoff established that a cancer vaccine made from whole, irradiated tumor cells that had been genetically engineered to produce an immune molecule called GM-CSF could effectively treat cancer. This work laid the groundwork for clinical testing of GVAX in humans. Dr. Dranoff has also made substantial contributions to our understanding of immune molecules called cytokines and of how immunotherapies achieve their therapeutic effects in patients. Dr. Dranoff currently serves as the Global Head of Exploratory Immuno-Oncology at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. Prior to joining Novartis in 2015, he was a professor of medicine at Harvard and co-leader of the Cancer Vaccine Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Cancer Immunology Research.

Receiving the 2015 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Immunology is Alexander Rudensky, PhD, who is chairman of the immunology program and director of the Ludwig Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Rudensky is being recognized for his pioneering contributions to our understanding of regulatory T (Treg) cells, immune cells that play an important role in restraining excessive or unwanted immune responses and inflammation. Dr. Rudensky’s lab, along with others, discovered an essential role for a molecular switch called Foxp3 in guiding the differentiation of Treg cells. His research has also deepened our knowledge of how these cells operate during infection, autoimmunity, and cancer, and revealed molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying their differentiation, maintenance, and function. Because they restrain immune responses, Treg cells represent an important potential target for cancer immunotherapies designed to unleash or enhance immune responses to cancer antigens. 

In addition to each receiving a $5,000 prize and a gold medallion bearing the likeness of Coley, Drs. Dranoff and Rudensky will each deliver a William B. Coley Lecture at the CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR Inaugural International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference on September 16-19, 2015, at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel.

CRI will also present the 2015 Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology to Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD The award honors a former CRI-Irvington postdoctoral fellow whose research in academia or industry has had a major impact on immunology. Dr. Bhardwaj, who was a CRI-Irvington postdoctoral fellow from 1985 to 1988 at The Rockefeller University, is currently professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and director of immunotherapy for The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai. She is known for her pioneering work on dendritic cells, which are key antigen-presenting cells that play an important role in starting immune responses. In addition to investigating the basic biology of these cells, Dr. Bhardwaj’s lab focuses on translational and clinical research aimed at developing dendritic cell-based vaccines for cancer, HIV, and autoimmunity. She has received a Clinical and Laboratory Integration Program (CLIP) grant from the Cancer Research Institute, and most recently CRI awarded her a Clinical Strategy Team Grant. She is a longtime member of CRI’s Clinical Trial Network, where she has served as the principal investigator of numerous clinical trials of cancer vaccines and other immunotherapies. Dr. Bhardwaj is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award and a Scientific American Top 50 Researchers Award. She is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the American Association of Physicians, and served as the 2014–2015 chair of the cancer immunology steering committee of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“The honorees epitomize the dedication, enthusiasm, and passion for cancer immunology and immunotherapy research that the Coley and Alt Awards represent,” said James P. Allison, PhD, director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council and professor and chair of immunology and executive director of the immunology platform at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Their scientific contributions have had a lasting impact on the field and are paving the way to better and safer treatments for cancer patients.”

In addition to the Coley and Alt awards, at the dinner CRI will present the Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research to CRI trustee Lauren Veronis and Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck (known as MSD outside the United States and Canada).

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