In recognition of pioneering research underpinning novel personalized treatments that have saved the lives of hundreds of cancer patients and brought new hope to thousands by informing the ongoing development of similar therapies, the Personalized Medicine Coalition is pleased to announce that it has selected Carl June, M.D., Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, University of Pennsylvania, as the recipient of the 16th Annual Leadership in Personalized Medicine Award.
In his letter nominating Dr. June, William S. Dalton, Ph.D., M.D., Executive Chairman, M2Gen, noted that Dr. June’s research with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells over the course of three decades has unlocked an entirely new approach to cancer care by demonstrating that a patient’s own immune cells can be genetically modified to seek and attack cancer cells. As one-time treatments that have eliminated symptoms for some patients with certain types of cancer, CAR T-cell therapies like Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) are perhaps the closest the world has ever come to a cure for the disease. As such, they underscore the promise of a new era in personalized medicine that is characterized by humanity’s enhanced ability to alter the molecular characteristics of a patient’s own cells in addition to developing targeted prevention and treatment plans that account for them.
“The impact of CAR-T therapy has revolutionized cancer treatment of several cancers and represents the quintessential development of personalized therapy,” Dr. Dalton wrote.
After focusing the early part of his career on developing T-cells to combat HIV, Dr. June turned his attention to the use of CAR T-cells in cancer care in the mid-1990s, when there was relatively little research activity in the area of personalized cellular immunotherapy. By modifying T-cells to target CD19, a protein expressed by the cancerous cells that cause leukemia, Dr. June’s team was able to demonstrate unprecedented success by 2011 in using the approach to treat cancers. Today, the cancer drug development pipeline includes almost 300 CAR T-cell therapy agents.
“The present benefits of immunotherapy are a monumental achievement for patients, but this is just the beginning of a new class of broadly applicable therapies,” said former PMC board chairman Stephen L. Eck, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. June will accept the award and deliver his reflections on the future of personalized medicine on the first day of The 16th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference at Harvard Medical School, which is scheduled to take place from March 31 – April 1, 2021.
“I am honored to be the recipient of this year’s Leadership in Personalized Medicine Award and I look forward to continued collaboration with my colleagues in personalized medicine, which has much to offer for patients with cancer and other devastating diseases,” said Dr. June.