Margaret Foti Award recipient is a force for change in cancer immunology and immunotherapy

One person can make a difference in cancer research and patient care. Just ask AACR Past President Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR, this year’s recipient of the AACR-Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research.

Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR
Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR

Jaffee will deliver her award lecture, Pancreatic Cancer Is a Model Connecting Basic Discoveries with the Clinic to Transform Cancer Care, at 4:45 p.m. ET Monday in Tangerine Ballroom 2 at the convention center.

“I’m not a Nobel Prize winner, but I have helped develop the field of cancer immunology, not only locally in my own program, but I’ve been a part of developing the field for my colleagues and through national contributions,” Jaffee said.

“My heart and passion are in changing the lives of pancreatic cancer patients with immunotherapy,” she continued.

As a chair of that working group, Jaffee met with leaders at the NCI to emphasize the importance of investing in cancer immunotherapy.

From quietly working behind the scenes to boldly speaking to those in authority, Jaffee has been a force for change in cancer immunology and immunotherapy.

“I have always wanted to impact cancer research and rapidly move new innovations into testing in patients. Call it translational research or clinical research, it’s really about taking innovations, helping develop those innovations, and making sure they get out to patients,” said Jaffee, the Dana and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli Professor of Oncology, Deputy Director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, and Co-Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancers Program at Johns Hopkins University.

Getting started on the path to leadership isn’t difficult, she said. All it takes is volunteering to help.

“I started early on by reviewing for the National Cancer Institute in review groups, the typical way you get started,” Jaffee said. “By doing a good job and making connections, not only did I learn, but decision-makers began to realize I could contribute more. I kept agreeing to participate at higher levels, learning about leadership in cancer research, making connections with colleagues all over the world.”

One of Jaffee’s early tasks was working with the NCI to consult on needed resources for the extramural community to develop novel immunotherapies that weren’t being developed by industry for less common cancers. She helped define the challenges of expanding the reach of immunotherapy. She has been active at the policy level and helped convince the U. S. Food and Drug Administration to accelerate approvals for combination therapies.

“One of the areas I focus on is convergent science — bringing together diverse expert groups to attack a problem, understanding the problem from the clinicians’ perspective, and getting teams together to develop ways to proceed to innovations more quickly so we can get our treatments to patients faster,” Jaffee said. “Bringing people together from different areas of expertise brings new ways to take on the challenges of developing new therapies.”

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