PHILADELPHIA — The Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research will be presented to Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD, Fellow of the AACR Academy, at the AACR Annual Meeting 2022, to be held in New Orleans April 8-13, 2022.
Rosenberg is being honored for his discovery and development of the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved immunotherapy for patients with cancer and for his contributions to effective cellular immunotherapies, including chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for patients with hematologic malignancies.
Rosenberg’s early research established interleukin-2 (IL-2) as a growth factor for antitumor T cells in mice and humans, and demonstrated that treating metastatic melanoma patients 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 FDA. In addition to metastatic melanoma, IL-2 has also been used to treat metastatic renal cell carcinoma patients 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 CAR-expressing T cells are able to target molecules, such as CD19, expressed by tumor cells and may therefore be used to specifically target and treat chemorefractory CD19-expressing B-cell lymphomas. CD19-targeting CAR T cells have since received FDA approval for this use and for the treatment of patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia, mantle cell lymphoma, and follicular lymphoma.
“We are extremely proud to honor Dr. Rosenberg with the 2022 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His pioneering research in immunotherapy has created a new paradigm for the treatment of cancer and other diseases, and has resulted in countless lives being saved. He could not be more deserving to receive our most prestigious of scientific achievement awards.”
The Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research was established in 1997 to annually recognize a scientist who has made a major scientific discovery in basic or translational cancer research. The awardee must be active in cancer research, have a record of recent noteworthy publications, and be conducting ongoing work that holds promise for continued substantive contributions to progress in the field of cancer.
Rosenberg is a senior investigator in the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI); Chief of the NCI Surgery Branch; and professor of surgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He has been an AACR member since 1971 and was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2015. He also received the AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology in 2020.
Throughout his career, Rosenberg has been recognized with a multitude of scientific honors, including the Dan David Prize, “Future” category (2021), Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research (2019), AAI-Steinman Award for Human Immunology Research (2019), 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), American Cancer Society Medal of Honor (2015), Betty Ford Lifetime Achievement Award of Distinction (2015), Samuel J. Heyman Service to America 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 earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Johns Hopkins University in 1961 and 1964, respectively. He also 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 illustrious career, he has authored or co-authored more than 30 books and more than 1,000 peer-reviewed publications.