Cancer Research Institute Media Room




CRI CEO Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey on How Data Drives Immunotherapy Advances

New York, November 22, 2023

Recently, the Cancer Research Institute’s (CRI) CEO and Director of Scientific Affairs Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, sat down with Immuno-Oncology Insights to discuss the necessity for data-driven research as a catalyst for advances in cancer immunotherapy research. The interview covered a range of topics, from Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey’s role at CRI to the organization’s upcoming priorities.

Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey spoke at length about the present state of the immunotherapy space. She said that a pressing task for immunologists right now is to determine the mechanisms that determine innate or acquired immunotherapy resistance. Additionally, she stated that CRI’s focus is to identify and address limitations in immune responses to improve outcomes for various patient groups.

On the role of research for drug development, Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey stressed the two-way street between how clinical successes feeds back into correlative research and how insights into molecular-level research can be reported back to laboratories. The consensus in the immunotherapy field over the past decade bolsters that concrete scientific rationale must inform the development and pairing of therapeutic agents for drug production. By producing more efficient and effective immunotherapies, a wider swath of patients can receive timely treatment.

Furthermore, Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey expressed excitement for the potential for how biomarkers can advance cancer immunotherapy patient outcomes. CRI is currently supporting a study that incorporates circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in 150 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. The study is demonstrating how ctDNA might be able to help provide clearer insights into treatment progress for NSCLC patients and point to instances where more aggressive treatment options might be necessary.

Lastly, Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey spoke about two new CRI initiatives: the CRI Immuno-Informatics Fellowship and the Bioinformatics Bootcamp, and how they can propel the cancer immunotherapy space forward. The CRI Immuno-Informatics Fellowship was born out of the realization that there is a pressing need for immunologists who are also robust data scientists. After conducting a survey among CRI-funded postdoctoral fellows, 70% responded they were interested in receiving data science training. This finding provoked CRI to launch a Bioinformatics Bootcamp, a week-long immersion program starting in the spring of 2024 that will teach postdoctoral fellows to learn how to analyze and record specific types of data.

You can read the entire interview here. Thank you for your continued readership and support. Together, we can create a world immune to cancer.

About the Cancer Research Institute

The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the preeminent U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to saving more lives by fueling the discovery and development of powerful immunotherapies for all cancers. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes four Nobel laureates and 33 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested over $517 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

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