The A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, at University of Michigan (U-M), recently announced that two researchers whose work demonstrated that cancer can be fought by the body’s own immune system, will share the $100,000 2016 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science.
The awardees are: Dr. Suzanne L. Topalian, a professor of surgery and oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and Dr. Jedd D. Wolchock, chief of Immunotherepeutics Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK).
Both were heralded in a press release for “their contributions to immunotherapy as a new paradigm in the treatment of advanced cancers.”
Topalian and Wolchok will be keynote speakers at the Taubman Institute’s Annual Symposium, Oct. 21, 2016 in Kahn Auditorium at U-M’s medical campus.
“My father was passionate about supporting U-M’s physician-scientists in their quests for new treatments and cures, but he also wanted to recognize and reward their hard-working counterparts at other institutions,” Taubman Institute’s Governing Council Co-Chair, Gayle Taubman Kalisman, said in the press release.
According to the institute, the two researchers’ complementary works have helped establish and bolster immunotherapy as a viable treatment approach and an extremely promising area of research for the treatment of many cancer types.
Topalian, who also serves as director of the melanoma program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center and associate director of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, specialized in translational studies of human anti-tumor immunity. She demonstrated that blockade of the PD-1 immune checkpoint designed to activate T-cells – the immune system’s cancer fighting infantry – can mediate tumor regression in patients with several types of advanced cancers.
Wolchok, who also serves as Associate Director of the Ludwig Institute, Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK and Professor of Medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, is responsible for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) inevitable approval of ipilimumab (Yervoy), a drug now used as a first-line treatment for advanced melanoma. The drug’s use has extended some patients’ survival from months to years.
“Harnessing the body’s own defenses to treat and defeat tumors is an important advance in the history of our battle with cancer,” said Taubman Institute’s Director and a professor U-M Medical School, Dr. Eva Feldman. “The work of Dr. Topalian and Dr. Wolchok has opened the door to life-saving new options for doctors and their patients, and exemplifies the ethos of the dedicated clinician-scientist. We are honored to recognize their extraordinary contributions.”