Taubman Prize Jointly Awarded to Suzanne L. Topalian, MD, and Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD, for Groundbreaking Work in Cancer Immunotherapy


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Two clinician-scientists whose groundbreaking work has shown how the human body’s own immune system can fend off cancer will share the 2016 $100,000 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science, the University of Michigan’s A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute announced.

Suzanne L. Topalian, MD, Professor of Surgery and Oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Director of the Melanoma Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Associate Director of The Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy; and Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD, Chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service, Lloyd J. Old and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation, and Attending Physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK); 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; will receive the honor in recognition of their contributions to immunotherapy as a new paradigm in the treatment of advanced cancers.

Taubman Prize Background

Suzanne L. Topalian, MD

Suzanne L. Topalian, MD

Drs. Topalian and ­Wolchok were selected by a national panel of eminent medical science experts from among dozens of nominees for the ­Taubman Prize.

They will present keynote talks at the Taubman Institute’s annual symposium on October 21, 2016, at the Kahn Auditorium on the University of Michigan medical campus.

The Taubman Prize was established in 2012 to recognize outstanding translational medical research beyond the University of Michigan. It includes a $100,000 award and is presented each year to one or more non–University of Michigan clinician-scientists who have done the most to transform laboratory discoveries into clinical applications for patients suffering from disease.

About Dr. Topalian

Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD

Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD

Dr. Topalian’s translational studies of human antitumor immunity have demonstrated that blockade of the programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) immune checkpoint, designed to unleash T cells, can mediate tumor regression in patients with multiple types of advanced cancers. Her current research focuses on manipulating “immune checkpoints” such as PD-1 in cancer therapy, discovering biomarkers predicting clinical outcomes, and developing effective treatment ­combinations.

Dr. Topalian received her medical degree from the Tufts University School of Medicine and completed a general surgery residency at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She was a research fellow and then a senior investigator in the National Cancer Institute. She joined the Johns Hopkins faculty to become the inaugural Director of the Melanoma Program in the Kimmel Cancer Center.

Dr. Topalian was named one of ­Nature’s 10 in 2014 and received the Karnofsky Award from ASCO in 2015.

About Dr. Wolchok

Dr. Wolchok’s research led to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of ipilimumab (Yervoy), a drug now used as a first-line treatment for patients with advanced melanoma. The use of ipilimumab has improved prognosis for a significant number of people from months to years.

He received his MD and PhD from New York University, where he also fulfilled his residency program. He completed his fellowship at MSK and remained on faculty with an appointment in the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service, which he
now leads.

Dr. Wolchok has been at the forefront of cancer immunotherapy as an active clinician-scientist exploring innovative immunotherapeutic strategies in laboratory models and as a principal investigator in numerous pivotal clinical trials.

In 2011, he established the Immunotherapeutics Clinical Core, a specialized phase I outpatient unit at MSK that is focused on the conduct of novel immunotherapy trials, with a specific emphasis on pharmacodynamic biomarker identification. This group treats patients with a broad spectrum of malignancies and has become a model for similar efforts by other major cancer centers throughout the world. ■


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