The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a nonprofit organization established in 1953 to advance biomedical research with the goal of developing lifesaving 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 immunology.
CRI will present the 2016 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology to Ton N. Schumacher, Ph.D., for his contributions to our understanding of how immune cells identify and target tumor-specific neoantigens, and how this capability can provide anti-tumor immunity. Neoantigens—called so because they are newly formed during cancer development—may represent ideal immunotherapy targets as they are solely expressed on tumor cells. Schumacher was the first to develop a technology for high-throughput analysis of immune cell reactivity to cancer neoantigens, which has allowed researchers to better observe the effects of immunotherapy in patients and has made it possible to develop personalized, patient-specific immunotherapies. With nearly 200 peer-reviewed publications, Schumacher has won numerous awards for his research, including the Meyenburg Cancer Research Award in 2015, Queen Wilhelmina Cancer Research Award in 2014, and the Amsterdam Inventor Award in 2010. He is a senior member of the Department of Immunology of The Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, is a member of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council, and is a CRI-SU2C Cancer Immunology Dream Team grantee.
Receiving the 2016 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Immunology is Dan R. Littman, M.D., Ph.D., for his definitive work on immune cell differentiation and his contributions to the identification and biology of unique immune cell subsets and their underlying interaction with the microbiome. He discovered the key regulator of Th17 immune cell differentiation, and was the first to identify a bacterial species that induces differentiation of these Th17 cells. A greater understanding of this regulator will allow for the development of novel treatments for cancer as well as inflammatory diseases. Littman is the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Molecular Immunology, a professor of pathology and microbiology, and a faculty member in the Molecular Pathogenesis program in the Skirball Institute for Biomedical Research at the New York University School of Medicine in New York, NY. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science in 2016 and the New York City Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology. Littman is a member of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council and has sponsored 19 CRI postdoctoral fellows since 1990.
CRI will also present the 2016 Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology to E. John Wherry, Ph.D. The award honors a former CRI Irvington postdoctoral fellow whose research in academia or industry has had a major impact in the field of immunology. Wherry, who was a CRI Irvington postdoctoral fellow from 2000 to 2003 at Emory University, is currently the professor of microbiology, director of the Institute for Immunology at Perelman School of Medicine, and co-director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. His discoveries include insights into how changes in gene expression affect T cell exhaustion, a waning of immune function that occurs in response to chronic viral infection and cancer. Current immunotherapies, such as nivolumab (Opdivo®) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda®), work in part by reversing T cell exhaustion. Wherry is on the Thomson/Reuters Highly Cited Researchers list, and was selected as one of America’s Young Innovators by Smithsonian Magazine in 2007.
The Coley Award winners receive a stipend of $5,000 and a gold medallion bearing the likeness of Dr. William B. Coley. In addition, Littman will present the 2016 William B. Coley Lecture on Monday, September 26, 2016, as part of the CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR Cancer Immunotherapy Conference, which will be held September 25-28, 2016, at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel and New York Hilton Midtown in New York City.
The award ceremony honoring Drs. Littman, Schumacher, and Wherry will take place at the Cancer Research Institute’s 30th Annual Awards Dinner on Tuesday, September 27, 2016, at The Plaza in New York City.