12.02.2019 18:00:00

Pioneering Physician-Scientist to Receive 2019 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research

ROCKVILLE, Md., Feb. 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) announced today that Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., of the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been selected to receive the 2019 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research. The Prize selection committee awarded Dr. Rosenberg for not only revolutionizing—if not originating—the field now known as cancer immunotherapy but also remaining at its forefront. Chief of the NCI Center for Cancer Research's surgery branch in Bethesda since 1974, his basic, translational and applied research efforts have contributed immeasurably to groundbreaking advances in therapy and the later development of drugs such as Chiron's (later Novartis and Prometheus Labs') Proleukin, Bristol-Myers Squibb's Yervoy and Gilead's Yescarta.

Dr. Rosenberg's research defined the ability of an immune cell secretion called IL-2 to bolster the growth of anti-tumor T lymphocytes—an important type of white blood cell commonly referenced as T cells—first in mice and later humans, both in vitro and in vivo. This work coalesced in a seminal 1985 publication of his that would lead seven years later to approval of a treatment for patients with metastatic renal cancer, the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved cancer immunotherapy. It remains the only systemic treatment currently available that is capable of curing patients with the disease in such an advanced state. In 1998, the drug was also FDA-approved for metastatic melanoma.

Another pivotal study, back in 1988, would establish Dr. Rosenberg as a creator of adoptive cell transfer, whereby cells, especially T cells, are removed, nurtured into vast exponential growth and reintroduced into the same patient. Over the subsequent three-plus decades, he and his NCI team's work would deliver virtually unmatched impact in the first branch of the field, CAR-T therapy, and be responsible for the most promising current findings in the second, tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy.

Other extraordinary cancer immunotherapy contributions made by Dr. Rosenberg include those in the fields of gene therapy and checkpoint inhibitors. In 1990, his team was the first to introduce foreign genes into humans—in the form of genetically modified T cells. In 2003, he provided the first demonstration in humans that the CTLA-4 inhibiting antibody developed by Dr. James Allison (2014 Szent-Györgyi and 2018 Nobel Prize winner) could induce cancer regression.

The 2019 Szent-Györgyi Prize's selection committee was unanimous in its decision to recognize Dr. Rosenberg's contributions. He will be honored at an award ceremony held Saturday, April 27th at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Media are invited and encouraged to attend.

"Dr. Rosenberg not only pioneered development of effective gene and immunotherapeutics but continues to innovate and inspire," said Karen E. Knudsen, Ph.D., enterprise director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, chair of the Thomas Jefferson University's department of cancer biology and member of the 2019 Szent-Györgyi Prize selection committee. "The impact of his discoveries on patients with advanced cancer has been nothing short of remarkable."

"Dr. Rosenberg is without a doubt one of the 'Fathers of Cancer Immunotherapy'," echoed Carlo Croce, M.D., professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University, winner of the 2008 Szent-Györgyi Prize and member of its 2019 selection committee. "This prestigious award is the recognition of his seminal and revolutionary work in starting and developing this extremely important field."

"The impact of Dr. Rosenberg's discoveries and pioneering work is phenomenal for cancer patients and for the research community," expressed Sujuan Ba, Ph.D., co-chair of the 2019 Prize selection committee and president and CEO of NFCR. "His accomplishments in immunotherapy are the embodiment of what NFCR's Szent-Györgyi Prize entails and he richly deserves this prestigious honor."

"I am honored to join the outstanding scientists who were prior recipients of this prestigious prize," stated Dr. Rosenberg. "The ongoing development of immunotherapy holds substantial promise for further improving the treatment of patients with cancer."

About the Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research 
The Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research was established in 2006 by the National Foundation for Cancer Research in honor of its co-founder, Albert Szent-Györgyi, M.D., Ph.D., recipient of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. The award recognizes and honors scientists who have made seminal discoveries or produced pioneering bodies of work that have resulted in, or led toward significant contributions to, cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment with a high impact of saving people's lives.

About the 2019Named Prize Winners
Dr. Rosenberg is chief of the surgery branch at the U.S. National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research and a professor of surgery at both the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and George Washington University's School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He received his B.A. and M.D. degrees at Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. at Harvard University. After completing his residency training in surgery in 1974 at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Dr. Rosenberg assumed the NCI position which he still holds today. He has published over 1,100 papers in peer-reviewed literature and over 30 books.

About the National Foundation for Cancer Research
The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides scientists in the lab the funding they need to make and apply game-changing discoveries in cancer treatments, detection, prevention and, ultimately, a cure. It has distinguished itself in the cancer sector by emphasizing long-term, transformative research often overlooked by other major funding sources. With the help of more than 5.3 million individual donors over the last 46 years, NFCR has delivered more than $380 million in funding to public education and cancer research leading to several important, life-saving discoveries. For more information, visit http://www.nfcr.org.

National Foundation for Cancer Research
Bradley Gillenwater, Senior Director for Global Programs & Communications 
E-mail: bgillenwater@nfcr.org / Phone: 301-961-9161

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SOURCE National Foundation for Cancer Research

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