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Cornelis Melief, MD, PhD, Receives 2018 ESMO Immuno-Oncology Award


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Cornelis Melief, MD, PhD

Cornelis Melief, MD, PhD

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) has selected Cornelis Melief, MD, PhD, to receive the ESMO 2018 Immuno-Oncology Award in recognition of his work studying the interactions of the immune system with cancer. Dr. Melief is Professor Emeritus in Tumor Immunology at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands as well as the Cofounder and Chief Scientific Officer of ISA Pharmaceuticals.

“This is a great honor and wonderful recognition of the fact that after many years of concept building and evaluation in lab models and investigational trials, we have finally arrived at immunotherapy approaches that can make a difference for patients,” Dr. Melief said.

John Haanen, PhD

John Haanen, PhD

“With this award we are recognizing him as a true pioneer in the field of cancer immunology, who has trained and inspired a whole generation of young scientists with his research,” noted John Haanen, PhD, Scientific Co-Chair of the ESMO 2018 Congress.

Research Focus

After studying virally induced cancer in mice, Dr. Melief is currently involved in clinical trials with synthetic vaccines for the treatment of head and neck as well as cervical cancer associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Dr. Melief’s work in developing effective immunotherapy for viral-induced tumors recently led to the implementation of clinical trials to bring synthetic long peptide vaccines to patients with cancer worldwide. Dr. Melief and his team were able to show the clinical effectiveness of these vaccines in treating patients with premalignant lesions caused by HPV type 16. They also demonstrated that in patients with cancer, in whom vaccination could not be used effectively on its own, vaccination should be employed in combination with other therapies.

Among the most promising results obtained to date, Dr. Melief and his team found a combination of synthetic long peptide vaccination and standard chemotherapy strengthened the immune response of patients with cervical cancer and prolonged survival. The researchers also discovered a similar effect may be achieved among patients with HPV-related head and neck cancer by administering the vaccines in conjunction with immunotherapy in the form of immune system–boosting monoclonal antibodies. 


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