Cancer Research Institute Media Room



Cancer Research Institute to Honor Three Scientists for Their Outstanding Scientific Contributions to Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy

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 awards will be presented at the Institute’s 31st Annual Awards Dinner taking place on Tuesday, November 14, 2017, at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Dr Rafi Ahmed EmoryRafi Ahmed, PhD, of Emory University, will receive the 2017 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Immunology for his seminal work on immune memory as well as his definitive studies of the role of PD-1 receptor in T cell exhaustion during chronic infection. This work significantly influenced the clinical development of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 immunotherapies, five of which have now received FDA approval in the treatment of cancer. Notably, one of these became the first cancer treatment ever to be approved for cancers with a specific genetic biomarker, regardless of their origin. Dr. Ahmed is the director of the Emory Vaccine Center, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and an investigator at the Emory Center for AIDS Research.

Thomas Gajewski, MD, PhDReceiving the 2017 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology is Thomas F. Gajewski, MD, PhD, of the University of Chicago, whose overall body of work has enhanced our understanding of the interactions between tumors, immune cells, and other factors that play a role in the immune response to cancer. Notably, he demonstrated a connection between the immune system and the collection of bacteria that inhabit the body, called the microbiome, sparking interest in the development of therapeutic and preventive approaches in cancer research. Gajewski also identified the STING pathway and characterized how its activity stimulates the body’s innate immune system to attack cancer. He also identified oncogenic pathways that can enable tumors to escape immune responses. Dr. Gajewski is the leader of the Immunology and Cancer Program and the director of the Human Immunologic Monitoring core facility at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, and is a professor in the Departments of Pathology and Medicine.

Each Coley Award honoree will receive a $5,000 prize and a gold medallion bearing the likeness of Coley. Additionally, Dr. Gajewski delivered the William B. Coley Lecture during this year’s CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference, which took place September 6-9, 2017, in Mainz, Germany.

Dr Shannon Turley GenentechAlso being honored this year is Shannon J. Turley, PhD, who will receive the 2017 Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology. This award recognizes a former CRI-Irvington postdoctoral fellow whose research has had a major impact on immunology. Dr. Turley, who was funded by CRI from 2002-2004, is now a principal scientist on the cancer immunology team at Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, where she focuses on how stromal cells and immune cells influence each other in the context of inflammation, cancer, fibrosis, and response to immunotherapy. By gaining a better understanding of how different stromal cells shape immune responses, Dr. Turley also uses this knowledge to develop strategies that target these stromal cells and have the potential to improve treatment for various immune-related diseases and cancer.

In addition to these scientific awards, CRI will also present the Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research to Bill Anderson, CEO of Genentech, who will accept the award on his company’s behalf for its contributions to the development of immunotherapy for cancer patients and for its generous support of CRI’s research and patient education programs. Also receiving the 2017 Grace Award will be real estate developer and philanthropist Bruce Ratner, in celebration of his commitment to funding cancer research and his ardent support for cancer immunotherapy.

About the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology
CRI established this award in 1975 in honor of Dr. William B. Coley, now regarded as the Father of Cancer Immunotherapy, whose daughter Helen Coley Nauts (1907-2001) founded the Cancer Research Institute. Award winners are nominated by CRI’s Scientific Advisory Council and former Coley Award winners including: Ton Schumacher and Dan Littman (2016); Glenn Dranoff and Alexander Y. Rudensky (2015); Tasuku Honjo, Lieping Chen, Arlene Sharpe, and Gordon Freeman (2014); Michael Karin (2013); Carl June and Michel Sadelain (2012); Philip D. Greenberg and Steven A. Rosenberg (2011); Haruo Ohtani, Wolf Hervé Fridman, and Jérôme Galon (2010); Cornelis J.M. Melief, Klaus Rajewsky, and Frederick W. Alt (2009); Michael J. Bevan (2008); Jeffrey V. Ravetch (2007); Shizuo Akira, Bruce A. Beutler, Ian H. Frazer, and Harald zur Hausen (2006); James P. Allison (2005); Shimon Sakaguchi and Ethan M. Shevach (2004); Jules A. Hoffmann, Charles A. Janeway, Bruno Lemaitre, and Ruslan Medzhitov (2003); Lewis L. Lanier, David H. Raulet, and Mark J. Smyth (2002); and Robert D. Schreiber (2001). Each winner receives a cash prize of $5,000 and a gold medallion bearing the likeness of Coley, and one winner each year is invited to present the William B. Coley Lecture at the International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference hosted jointly by the Cancer Research Institute, the Association for Cancer Research, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research. To view a complete description of past Coley Award recipients, go to

About the Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology
The Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology honors a former CRI Irvington postdoctoral fellow in recognition of outstanding success in academia or industry for research that may have a potentially major impact on immunology. The award is named after CRI Scientific Advisory Council member Frederick W. Alt, PhD, of the Harvard Medical School, Immune Disease Institute in Boston, MA, who has been deeply involved in cultivating the careers of emerging young scientists. Former Alt award winners include: E. John Wherry (2016); Nina Bhardwaj (2015), Iannis Aifantis (2014), Jill O’Donnell-Tormey (2013), Sebastian Amigorena (2012), Stephen C. Jameson (2011), Jason G. Cyster (2010), Anjana Rao (2009), Sankar Ghosh (2008), and Gourisanker Ghosh (2007). For more information, visit

About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world’s leading 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 25 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested $344 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

Media Contact:
Brian M. Brewer, [email protected], (212) 688-7515 x242.

Read more:

This website uses tracking technologies, such as cookies, to provide a better user experience. If you continue to use this site, then you acknowledge our use of tracking technologies. For additional information, review our Privacy Policy.