Dana-Farber researcher receives highest honor from Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer

Gordon Freeman, PhD, is co-recipient of 2020 Richard V. Smalley, MD, Memorial Award and Lectureship

The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) announced that Gordon Freeman, PhD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is the co-recipient of the 2020 Richard V. Smalley, MD, Memorial Award and Lectureship, the society’s highest honor. The other co-recipients are Lieping Chen, MD, PhD, from Yale Cancer Center and Arlene Sharpe, MD, PhD, from Harvard Medical School.

The research conducted by Freeman, Chen and Sharpe formed the foundation for developing immune checkpoint blockade immunotherapies and will be featured during the society’s 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting in November at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD.

“The contributions Drs. Chen, Freeman and Sharpe have made to the area of immune checkpoint inhibitors have fundamentally changed the treatment of cancer,” said SITC President Mario Sznol, MD. “The current success of cancer immunotherapy can be traced back to their foundational mechanistic studies and commitment to translating their findings to the clinic.”

In naming Freeman a co-recipient of this award, the society noted:

The research conducted by Dr. Freeman’s lab identified the major pathways that control the immune response by inhibiting T cell activation (PD-1/PD-L1 and B7-2/CTLA-4) or stimulating T cell activation (B7-2/CD28). His group’s discovery of PD-L1 and PD-L2 demonstrated that these molecules were ligands for PD-1, thereby defining the PD-1 pathway and the potential of drugs to block these interactions. Dr. Freeman demonstrated that PD-L1 is highly expressed on many solid tumors as well as some hematologic malignancies, which allows these tumors to inhibit immune responses. He made antibodies that blocked the PD-1 pathway and showed they enhanced immune responses.

“The PD-L1/PD-1 Pathway: Discovery and New Insights,” is the title of Freeman’s Richard V. Smalley, MD, Memorial Lectureship. “This success of PD-L1 and PD-1 immunotherapy has given patients new hope and energized scientists and drug developers as never before. We are finding what works, what’s safest, how it works, and who it will work for,” said Freeman when describing the impact of his work.

Freeman is in the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Freeman earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and doctorate in microbiology and molecular genetics from Harvard University. Freeman is a Fellow of the AACR Academy and the recipient of the 2014 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology and the 2017 recipient of the Warren Alpert Foundation award.

The Smalley Memorial Award, established by SITC in 2005 and awarded annually to a clinician or scientist who has significantly contributed to the advancement of research in the field of cancer immunotherapy, is named in honor of the past SITC president and charter member of the society.

To learn more about this award, visit SITC CONNECT.

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