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Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg Recognized With the 2020 AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will present Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD, Fellow of the AACR Academy, with the 2020 AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology.

The AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology recognizes an active scientist whose outstanding and innovative research has had a major impact on the cancer field and has the potential to stimulate new directions in cancer immunology.

Rosenberg is a senior investigator at the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute (NCI); Chief, Surgery Branch at the NCI; and professor of surgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Rosenberg is being recognized for his seminal discoveries that led to the first effective cancer immunotherapy, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and the first adoptive cell transfer immunotherapies for both solid and blood cancers, including genetically modified T cells.

Rosenberg’s research established IL-2 as a growth factor for antitumor T cells in mice and humans, both in vitro and in vivo, and demonstrated that treating patients with metastatic melanoma with high doses of IL-2 could induce long-term tumor regression. These landmark discoveries led to IL-2 becoming the first cancer immunotherapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it has been used to treat patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma and metastatic melanoma since the 1990s.

Building on this work, Rosenberg pioneered adoptive cell immunotherapies by leveraging IL-2 activity to stimulate the growth of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) isolated from the tumors of melanoma patients. Reintroduction of these expanded TIL cell populations back into patients subsequently led to long-term tumor regression in many cases. Rosenberg and his team have since extended this approach and generated similar promising clinical results for breast, colorectal, and liver cancer patients. They also discovered that T cells are able to be genetically modified to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), and that these CAR-expressing T cells are able to target molecules expressed by tumor cells such as CD19 and may therefore be used to specifically target and treat chemorefractory CD19-expressing B-cell lymphomas. CD19-targeting CAR T cells have since been FDA-approved for this use and for the treatment of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia.

“Dr. Rosenberg is an eminent physician-scientist who has been a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy for decades,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His body of groundbreaking research has led to the development of several immunotherapies, each of which has significantly transformed the treatment of many types of cancer. He is richly deserving of this prestigious award.”

“Dr. Rosenberg’s success in advancing IL-2 as the first FDA-approved immunotherapy and his pioneering contributions to adoptive cell therapy were among the earliest demonstrations of the potential for immune-based treatments to improve outcomes for cancer patients,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs at CRI. “These accomplishments, together with his prominent devotion to this therapeutic area, contributed significantly to the development of the field of immuno-oncology.”

Rosenberg has been a member of the AACR since 1971. He was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2015. Throughout his career, Rosenberg has been recognized with a multitude of scientific honors, including: the Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research (2019), the AAI-Steinman Award for Human Immunology Research (2019), the Anthony Cerami Award in Translational Medicine (2019), Edogawa NICHE Prize (2019), Helis Prize in Cancer Research (2019), Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service (2019), Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research (2018), Excellence in Technology Transfer Award (2018), Jacobson Innovation Award (2018), NCI Director’s Award for Translational Science (2018), Federal Technology Transfer Award (2018), James Ewing Award (2016), Novartis Prize for Clinical Immunology (2016), Medal of Honor (2015), Betty Ford Lifetime Achievement Award of Distinction (2015), Samuel J. Heyman Service to American Medals – Federal Employee of the Year, Partnership for Public Service (2015), Keio Medical Science Prize (2012), William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology (2011), Medallion for Scientific Achievement (2006), Richard V. Smalley, MD, Memorial Award (2005), Lila Gruber Memorial Cancer Research Award (2005), American-Italian Cancer Foundation Prize for Scientific Excellence in Medicine (2003), Flance-Karl Award (2002), John Wayne Award for Clinical Research (1996), Claude Jacquillat Award for Achievement in Clinical Oncology (1993), American Society of Clinical Oncology’s David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture (1991), and the Leopold Griffuel Prize (1988).

Rosenberg received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Johns Hopkins University in 1961 and 1964, respectively. He earned a doctorate in biophysics from Harvard University. Rosenberg completed his surgical residency at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women’s Hospital), while simultaneously completing his research fellowship in immunology with John David, MD. Over the course of his career, he has authored or co-authored more than 30 books and more than 1,000 peer-reviewed publications.

About the American Association for Cancer Research

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes 47,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and patient advocates residing in 127 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 30 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 22,500 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes nine prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual investigator grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and other policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit

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For media inquiries, contact Julia Gunther at [email protected] or 770-403-7690. Visit AACR newsroom

Source: American Association of Cancer Research

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