Grant Review Committee
The Grant Review Committee provides scientific merit-based peer review of research proposals submitted to MRA. The committee also advises MRA on other scientific matters as requested.
Please note: All organizational affiliations and titles are listed for identification purposes only. All individuals serve in their personal capacity and not as a representative of their employer.
- Boris Bastian, M.D., Ph.D. - Chair
- Ana Anderson, Ph.D - Co-Chair
- Caroline Robert, M.D., Ph.D. - Past Chair
- Andrew Aplin, Ph.D.
- Emily Bernstein, Ph.D.
- Nina Bhardwaj, M.D., Ph.D.
- Marcus Bosenberg, M.D., Ph.D.
- Paul B. Chapman, M.D.
- Tanja de Gruijl, Ph.D.
- David Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.
- Keith Flaherty, M.D.
- Thomas Gajewski M.D., Ph.D.
- Jeffrey Gershenwald, M.D.
- J. William Harbour, M.D.
- Thomas J. Hornyak, M.D., Ph.D.
- Roger Lo, M.D., Ph.D.
- David Lombard, M.D., Ph.D.
- Michal Lotem, M.D.
- Glenn Merlino, Ph.D.
- Drew Pardoll, M.D., Ph.D.
- Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D.
- Jonathan Simons, M.D.
- Craig Slingluff, M.D.
- Maria Soengas, Ph.D.
- David B. Solit, M.D.
- Susan M. Swetter, M.D.
- Jennifer Wargo, M.D., MMSc
- Jeffrey Weber, M.D., Ph.D.
- Ashani Weeraratna, Ph.D.
- Jedd Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D.
- Xu Wu, Ph.D.
- Kai Wucherpfennig, M.D., Ph.D.
Ana Anderson, Ph.D
Associate Professor, Neurology
Harvard Medical School
Associate Scientist, Neurology
Brigham And Women's Hospital
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Dr. Anderson is currently an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Associate Scientist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Associate Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and core faculty member of the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases. Her laboratory identified the inhibitory molecule Tim-3 as a key regulator of T cell dysfunction in cancer. Prior to working in the field of cancer immunology, Dr. Anderson worked in the field of autoimmunity. Dr. Anderson has published over 49 original papers, 19 reviews, and 5 book chapters. Her work on checkpoint receptors has laid the foundation for the translation of blocking antibodies against several receptors into clinical trials for cancer.
She has had several papers selected as either ‘must-read’ or ‘recommended’ by the Faculty of 1000. Dr. Anderson is on the editorial board for OncoImmunology, Cellular Immunology, and The Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer. She served on the scientific advisory board for CoStim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was acquired by Novartis for their immunotherapy programs. She currently serves on the scientific advisory boards for Tizona Therapeutics, Compass Therapeutics, Zumutor Biologics, and Astellas Pharma Global Development.
Andrew Aplin, Ph.D
The Kalback-Newton Professor in Cancer Research
Associate Director, Basic Research
Program Leader, Cancer Cell Biology & Signaling
NCI-designated Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center
Professor, Department of Cancer Biology
Thomas Jefferson University
Andrew E. Aplin is the Associate Director for Basic Science and the Program Leader for Cancer Cell Biology and Signaling in the NCI-designated, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. His research elucidates mechanisms underlying aberrant growth and invasion in melanoma and the influence of the tumor microenvironment. In the past 18 years, his lab has identified downstream targets of mutant BRAF signaling and shown their contribution to malignant traits in melanoma. One focus is the role mutant BRAF regulated transcription factors. They have shown that BRAF-MEK-ERK1/2 signaling differentially regulates FOXD3 and TWIST1 and demonstrated the opposing roles of these transcription factors in melanoma invasion. Another area of focus is the determinants of response and mechanisms of resistance to RAF inhibitors in BRAF V600E melanomas. To facilitate these efforts, his group has developed novel models to quantitatively measure ERK1/2 signaling in melanoma tumors in vivo. A third area is response and resistance to next generation RAF inhibitors, ERBB3 neutralizing antibodies and CDK4/6 inhibitors in different genetic subsets of melanoma. Through collaborations with clinicians on the Jefferson campus, he is extending his group’s studies into ocular melanoma. Dr. Aplin is a regular member of the NIH study section, Molecular Cancer Therapeutics-1 (MCT1) and served as a Discussion Leader on NCI SPORE review panels. He is a past co-editor of Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research and serves on the editorial board of Cancer Research and Molecular Cancer Research.
Boris Bastian, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Dermatology and Pathology
Gerson and Barbara Bass Bakar Distinguished Professor, Cancer Research
Leader, Cutaneous Oncology
University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Boris Bastian is a dermatologist and dermatopathologist with expertise in diagnosing and treating patients with cutaneous neoplasms. He has expertise in molecular cancer genetics and molecular pathology and leads a research laboratory at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Since 1997 his research has focused on the molecular pathogenesis of melanoma and revealed the existence of distinct disease subtypes that differ in their underlying genetic alterations, epidemiology, anatomic distribution, clinical and microscopic appearance, evolution from precursor lesions, role of UV radiation, and cell of origin. The Bastian Lab also has contributed to the discovery of oncogenic alterations such as mutations in KIT, GNAQ, GNA11, HRAS, and a whole panel of oncogenic fusion genes of various receptor tyrosine and threonine kinases in various melanocytic neoplasms. Dr. Bastian has developed clinical tests to assist pathologists with the diagnosis of histologically ambiguous lesions, which have been adopted word-wide. He has proposed a two-dimensional taxonomy of melanocytic neoplasia that has been adopted as the framework for the revised WHO Classification of Skin Tumors. He founded and directs the Clinical Cancer Genomics Laboratory at UCSF, which performs genomic analyses of tumor samples of patients seen at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and have additional clinical responsibilities in the in the Dermatopathology Section of the Departments of Dermatology and Pathology.
Emily Bernstein, Ph.D.
Professor, Oncological Sciences
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Dr. Bernstein is an Associate Professor of Oncological Sciences and Dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She performed her thesis research in the laboratory of Dr. Gregory Hannon at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with a PhD from Stony Brook University. Dr. Bernstein completed her postdoctoral studies with Dr. David Allis at The Rockefeller University. She has made important scientific contributions to various areas of biology during her career, including understanding the mechanisms underlying RNA interference and chromatin regulation, and more recently, how the latter can impact on disease. Her laboratory studies epigenetic mechanisms underlying stem cell biology and reprogramming, and cancer initiation and progression with a focus on malignant melanoma.
Nina Bhardwaj, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Dr. Bhardwaj's research focuses on the study of dendritic cells, which serve a crucial function as sentinels of the immune system. They are potent antigen-presenting cells which integrate microbe sensing, antigen display, and context-dependent instruction to T cells, to direct the appropriate type of immune response. The Bhardwaj lab focuses on combining fundamental research in dendritic cell biology with innovative translational and clinical approaches. We are thus investigating specialized cytokine secretion, antigen presentation, T cell skewing, interactions with NK cells, and optimal methods of antigen delivery for vaccines using dendritic cells, in HIV, autoimmunity and cancer.
Marcus Bosenberg, M.D., Ph.D. - Chair
Professor of Dermatology, Pathology, and Immunobiology
Co-Leader, Genomics, Genetics and Eipgenetics Program
Co-Director, SPORE in Skin Cancer
Practicing Dermatopathologist, Yale Dermatopathology
Yale School of Medicine
Marcus Bosenberg M.D., Ph.D., is a physician scientist who directs a leading melanoma research laboratory and is a practicing dermatopathologist at Yale Dermatopathology in the Yale Medical Group. In his research, Dr. Bosenberg studies the genetics and cellular changes that result in melanoma, the leading cause of skin cancer deaths. His laboratory has developed several models in order to study how melanoma forms and progresses, to test new melanoma therapies, and how the immune system can be stimulated to fight melanoma. He attempts to translate basic scientific findings into improvements in melanoma diagnosis and therapy, including efforts to develop new drugs that inhibit epigenetic targets in melanoma. He is Co-Editor in Chief of Pigment & Melanoma Cell Research and is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, an honor society for physician scientists. Dr. Bosenberg mentors undergraduate, graduate, medical, and MD-PhD students in his laboratory, teaches at Yale Medical School, and trains resident physicians, fellows, and postdoctoral fellows.
Paul Chapman, M.D.
Attending Physician, Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service
Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Chapman's focus of research is development of novel therapeutics and predictive assays for metastatic melanoma. He is leading early stage clinical trials with monoclonal antibodies as well as novel combinations of signaling pathway inhibitors and immune modulators. In addition to his contributions to the MRA, he is a member of the scientific advisory board of the Melanoma Research Foundation and the steering committee of Society of Melanoma Research. He received his MD from Cornell, completed a residency at the University of Chicago and a medical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Tanja de Gruijl, Ph.D.
Professor, Translational Tumor Immunology
Head Immunotherapy Lab
Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Tanja de Gruijl heads the Immunotherapy and Immune monitoring Lab of the Department of Medical Oncology of Amsterdam UMC, Vrije Universiteit-Cancer Center Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She has over 25 years of experience in the field of tumour immunology and has co authored more than 200 research papers. Her research ranges from preclinical topics to immune monitoring of Phase I-III clinical trials. Her main line of research is the in vivo targeting and modulation of dendritic cells. Further topics of research include tumor-mediated immune suppression, control of myeloid differentiation, immunological arming of oncolytic adenoviruses, nanobody-mediated targeting of (NK)T-cell subsets, and the immune potentiation of tumor-draining lymph nodes and the tumor microenvironment. She is associate editor for Cancer Immunology Research and Clinical and Experimental Immunology. In addition to her involvement in MRA, she is a member of the scientific council of the Dutch Cancer Society, has chaired the Dutch Tumour Immunology Working Party, and is co-chair of the International Advisory Committee and has recently been elected as at-large director on the Board of Directors of the Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). She received her Master's degree in Medical Biology from the University of Utrecht, and her PhD from the VU University in Amsterdam.
David Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief, Dermatology Service
Director, Melanoma Program MGH Cancer Center
Director, Cutaneous Biology Research Center
Massachusetts General Hospital
David E. Fisher, MD, PhD is an internationally known researcher, clinician and academic, who is Chief of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). He also serves as Director of the MGH Cutaneous Biology Research Center and Director of the Melanoma Center at MGH. A Professor of Dermatology and of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Fisher came to the MGH from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he previously Directed the Melanoma Program. Dr. Fisher's research has focused on understanding the molecular and genetic events which underlie formation of melanoma as well as skin pigmentation. As a clinician, he has worked to translate these understandings into advances in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of human diseases related to the skin and associated disorders. A graduate of Swarthmore College with a degree in Biology and Chemistry, Dr. Fisher is also an accomplished concert cellist and received a degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He received his PhD under Nobel Laureate Gunter Blobel at Rockefeller University and his Medical Degree at Cornell University Medical College under Dr. Henry Kunkel. Dr. Fisher's specialty training in Medicine, Pediatrics, and Oncology were carried out at Harvard Medical School. He recently served for three years as President of the Society for Melanoma Research, the largest international society dedicated to the study of melanoma.
Keith Flaherty, M.D.
Director, Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies, Mass General
Director, Clinical Research, Mass General
Richard Saltonstall Chair, Oncology
Massachusetts General Hospital
Dr. Flaherty has authored or co-authored nearly 300 peer-reviewed primary research reports and review articles, with 37 additional chapters and solicited editorials. Principal among these are three, first-author publications in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the first-in-human clinical trial with the first selective BRAF inhibitor, PLX4032 (now known as vemurafenib), the phase III trial of trametinib (a MEK inhibitor) demonstrating improved progression-free and overall survival compared to conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy, and the phase I/randomized phase II trial demonstrating that combined BRAF/MEK inhibition substantially improves efficacy compared to BRAF inhibitor monotherapy. And, the definitive evidence of benefit of BRAF/MEK combination therapy was defined in the study published in Lancet for which Dr. Flaherty was senior author. These manuscripts define two quantum steps in the advancement of therapy for metastatic melanoma. Dr. Flaherty has co-authored an additional three New England Journal of Medicine manuscripts describing long-term survival benefit from vemurafenib, improved survival with vemurafenib compared to conventional chemotherapy, and the mechanism by which growth of cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas is triggered by vemurafenib and other BRAF inhibitors.
Thomas Gajewski M.D., Ph.D
Professor, Pathology and Medicine
University of Chicago
Dr. Gajewski is a Professor of Pathology and Hematology/Oncology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He investigates and develops new treatments for patients with melanoma, with a special interest in immunotherapy. Dr. Gajewski also leads development of immune-based therapies for other cancers, using new laboratory data on how the immune system is regulated to develop novel clinical trials. His clinical expertise includes biology therapy immunotherapy, epidemiology, immune system disorders, and melanoma. Dr. Gajewski serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Immunology and is on committees for the American Society for Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research. He is a member of the American Society of Immunologists, the American Society of Hematology, and the International Society for the Biological Therapy of Cancer. Dr. Gajewski received his B.A. from the University of Chicago as well as his M.D./Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Pritzer School of Medicine.
Jeffrey Gershenwald, M.D.
Professor, Surgical Oncology
Professor, Cancer Biology
The University of Texas MD Anderson
Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, MD, FACS, is the Dr. John M. Skibber Professor of Surgery in the Department of Surgical Oncology and a Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson) in Houston, Texas. He is also the Medical Director of the MD Anderson Melanoma and Skin Center. Dr. Gershenwald received his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College, and after completing his general surgery residency at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, he completed a fellowship in Surgical Oncology at MD Anderson before joining its faculty. In addition to his active surgical oncology practice focused on the care of patients with melanoma, Dr. Gershenwald's research focuses on integrated clinical-, pathological-, and molecular-based prognostic and predictive modeling in melanoma. He currently co-leads the inaugural MD Anderson Melanoma Moon Shot research program, an ambitious initiative that spans the melanoma continuum from public policy and prevention research initiatives to reduce ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure in youth to leveraging our understanding of the molecular and immune underpinnings of melanoma to improve treatment options for patients with early-stage and advanced melanoma. Dr. Gershenwald is a member of the Executive Committee of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and its 8th edition Editorial Board, and Chair of its Melanoma Expert Panel. He serves as a member of the Surgical Oncology Board of the American Board of Surgery. Recently, Dr. Gershenwald co-led the melanoma project of The NIH-funded Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) program. He has published more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as more than 100 editorials, abstracts, invited articles, and other publications; for the past 13 years, Dr. Gershenwald has been listed in America’s Best Doctors.
J. William Harbour, M.D.
Professor, Ophthalmology Mark J. Daily Chair in Ophthalmology Secondary Appointment, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Bascom Palmer Eye Institute
Vice Chairman, Translational Research
Director, Ocular Oncology
Eye Cancer Site Disease Group Leader
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Associate Director, Basic Research
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
J. William Harbour, M.D., a pioneering ocular oncologist and cancer researcher whose genetic discoveries are transforming the diagnosis and treatment of uveal melanoma and other eye cancers. He attended Johns Hopkins for medical school, Wills Eye Hospital for residency, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute for retina fellowship, University of California San Francisco for ocular oncology fellowship, and Washington University in St. Louis for post-doctoral cancer research training. He was on the faculty of Washington University for 16 years, rising to the rank of Distinguished Professor before being recruited to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Miami in 2012. He is now the Dr. Mark J. Daily Endowed Professor, Vice Chairman for Translational Research at Bascom Palmer and Associate Director for Basic Research at Sylvester. His research laboratory has been continuously funded for the past 20 years and uses methods in biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, epigenetics and genomics to understand the pathogenesis, identify biomarkers, and discover treatments for eye cancers. His discovery of mutations in BAP1 has triggered to an intense international interest in this tumor suppressor, and his group was the first to show that BAP1 mutations can be transmitted in the germline as part of the newly discovered BAP1 familial cancer syndrome.
Dr. Harbour’s lab developed a clinical prognostic test for uveal melanoma that is now the industry standard and is used for routine clinical testing at the vast majority of ocular oncology centers in North America. His group has discovered mutations in SF3B1, another important cancer gene in uveal melanoma that is associated with intermediate metastatic risk. Recently, the Harbour lab discovered yet another prognostic biomarker in uveal melanoma, aberrant expression of the proto-oncogene PRAME, which is associated with tumor progression, chromosomal instability and increased metastatic risk. Ongoing research efforts focus on the use of these discoveries as “companion prognostic” biomarkers that link high-risk patients to innovative new therapies based on their molecular profile.
Thomas J. Hornyak, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Dermatology, VA Maryland Health Care System
Associate Professor, Dermatology
Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology UM
Associatew Chief of Staff, Research & Development, VA Maryland Health Care System
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Dr. Hornyak is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Dermatology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Associate Chief of Staff for Research & Development, VA Maryland Health Care System. His research activities are focused upon melanocyte developmental and stem cell biology and melanoma epigenetics, and he maintains a clinical interest and practice in pigmented lesions and melanoma. He is also currently the President of the Pan-American Society for Pigment Cell Research. He obtained his A.B. in Music from Princeton and his M.D. degree and Ph.D. degree in Biological Chemistry from The University of Michigan Medical School. He completed an internship in medicine at The New York Hospital - Cornell University Medical Center and a residency in dermatology at New York University Medical Center.
Roger Lo, M.D., Ph.D
Director, Melanoma Clinic in Dermatology
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Dermatology
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology
University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine
Dr. Roger Lo is Professor and Associate Chief of Medicine/Dermatology and Program Director of the Dermatology STAR Residency at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. He earned his BS in Biology (Honors and Distinction, 1994, Stanford University) and his MD-PhD degrees from the Tri-institutional (Weill Cornell, MSKCC, and Rockefeller) Program in 2002. After residency and postdoc training at UCLA, he joined the faculty in 2008. Work from his group has been recognized for providing the major scientific rationale toward the use of inhibitors of BRAF and MEK in combination to effectively treat melanoma – a therapeutic approach that is now globally considered the standard of care. Studies from his group have provided rationale for additional clinical trials and foundational knowledge on the roles of tumor heterogeneity, non-genomic processes and the tumor microenvironment in determining clinical responses to mutation/immune-targeted therapies. His work has been published in Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, Cancer Discovery, Cancer Cell, and Cell. Dr. Lo was elected to American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2012 and American Dermatological Association in 2015. He received the 33rd Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) (2013), the inaugural AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research (2017), and the Milstein Innovation Award from the American Skin Association (2018). He currently serves on the Editorial Board of the AACR journal Cancer Discovery.
David Lombard, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Pathology
Director, Cancer Biology Graduate Traning Program
University of Michigan
Dr. Lombard performed his doctoral studies with Dr. Lenny Guarente (MIT), a pioneer in sirtuin biology. After Pathology residency, Dr. Lombard pursued postdoctoral work in Dr. Fred Alt’s laboratory (HHMI), where he studied the sirtuins SIRT3 and SIRT6, supported by an NIA/NIH K08 award. Dr. Lombard was the first to describe a central role for SIRT3 in regulating mitochondrial protein acetylation (cited >900 times per Google Scholar). Subsequent studies have revealed that SIRT3 is a major player in regulating metabolism, cancer, and cardiac health. He set up his independent lab at the U-M in 2008. Among Dr. Lombard’s most significant more recent contributions have been describing SIRT6’s tumor suppressor function via metabolic regulation (Cell); and novel aspects of mitochondrial regulation by SIRT5 (Molecular Cell). He is a member of the Aging Cell and JBC editorial boards. He was named a New Scholar in Aging of the Ellison Medical Foundation, a member of The American Society for Clinical Investigation, the contact PI on a Melanoma Research Alliance Team Science project, a Scholar-Innovator of the Harrington Discovery Institute, a recipient of an AACR Innovation and Discovery award, and a regular member of the NIH study section CMAD. He serves as Director of the Cancer Biology doctoral program at the U-M, supported by T32CA009676. He also serves as Deputy Site Director for the NIA-funded Interventions Testing Program, which identifies small molecules that extend mouse health span and longevity.
Michal Lotem, M.D.
Head, Center for Melanoma and Cancer Immunotherapy
Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center
Michal Lotem, MD. Graduate of Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University; Board certified in Dermatology (1993) and Clinical and Radiation Oncology (1997). Post-doctoral research fellowship at the Surgery Branch, NCI, Bethesda, Md, USA. Prof. Michal Lotem combines intensive clinical work with scientific translational research. She is conducting anti-cancer vaccination protocols, adoptive cell therapy using tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and adoption of TCR-transduced cell therapy to the clinic. The Lotem's Lab is studying SLAM (signaling lymphocyte associated molecules) family of receptors, as targets for cancer immunotherapy.
Glenn Merlino, Ph.D.
Head, Cancer Modeling Section
CCR Scientific Director, Basic Research
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Dr. Merlino is currently a Senior Investigator and the Scientific Director for Basic Research at the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, NIH. Dr. Merlino's career research contributions include advancements in the areas of receptor tyrosine kinase signaling, oncogenic transformation, transcriptional regulation, cell cycle regulation, multiple drug resistance and genomic instability. Dr. Merlino was the first to report the amplification/rearrangement of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor gene in human cancer and was among the first to show that growth factors could function in vivo as oncogenes using transgenic mouse models. Dr. Merlino and his colleagues in the Cancer Modeling Section are seeking to elucidate the complex molecular/genetic programs governing melanoma genesis and progression through the development and analysis of genetically engineered mouse models of human cancer. Using a novel mouse melanoma model, Dr. Merlino provided the first experimental evidence supporting the notion that childhood sunburn is a critical melanoma risk factor. This same model is being used to identify the molecular wiring of melanoma initiation by UV radiation, and to access the relative risks of exposure to UVA and UVB in sunlight. They also established the first relevant mouse model of embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, and identified Ezrin and its transcriptional regulator Six1 as key pro-metastasis factors in that pediatric malignancy. A current goal of the Merlino lab is to establish and exploit preclinical mouse models for human melanoma to study mechanisms underlying response and resistance to immune checkpoint blockade, and to uncover biomarkers that will predict melanoma patient response in the clinic.
Drew Pardoll, M.D., Ph.D
Professor, Pathology and Molecular Biology
Director, Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
Co-Director, Cancer Immunology Program
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Dr. Pardoll is an Abeloff Professor of Oncology, Medicine, Pathology and Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine. He is the Director of the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and Co-Director of the Cancer Immunology Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Pardoll attended Johns Hopkins University, where he earned his M.D., Ph.D., in 1982 and completed his Medical Residency and Oncology Fellowship in 1985. He then worked for three years at the National Institutes of Health as a Medical Staff Fellow. Dr. Pardoll joined the departments of oncology and medicine in 1988. Dr. Pardoll has published over 300 papers as well as over 20 book chapters on the subject of T cell immunology and cancer vaccines. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and Cancer Cell, and has served as a member of scientific advisory boards for the Cancer Research Institute, the University of Pennsylvania Human Gene Therapy Gene Institute, Biologic Resources Branch of the National Cancer Institute, Harvard-Dana Farber Cancer Center, Cerus Corporation, Global Medical Products Corporation, Genencor Corporation, CellGenesys Corporation, Mojave Therapeutics, the American Association of Clinical Oncology and the American Association of Cancer Research. Dr. Pardoll has made a number of basic advances in Cellular Immunology, including the discovery of gamma - delta T cells, NKT cells and interferon-producing killer dendritic cells. Over the past two decades, Dr. Pardoll has studied molecular aspects of dendritic cell biology and immune regulation, particularly related to mechanisms by which cancer cells evade elimination by the immune system. He is an inventor of a number of immunotherapies, including GVAX cancer vaccines and Listeria monocytogenes based cancer vaccines. Dr. Pardoll’s basic immunology discoveries include the identification of -T cells, NKT cells and IKDC. He elucidated the role of Stat3 signaling in tumor immune evasion and in Th17 development, leading to the discovery that Stat3-driven Th17 responses promote carcinogenesis. Dr. Pardoll discovered one of the two ligands for the PD-1 inhibitory receptor and leads the Hopkins cancer immunology program that developed PD-1 pathway-targeted antibodies, demonstrating their clinical activity in multiple cancer types. His more than 300 articles cover cancer vaccines, gene therapies, cancer prevention technologies, recombinant immune modulatory agents for specific pathways that regulate immunity to cancer and infectious diseases.
Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Molecular and medical Pharmacology
Director, Turmor Immunology Program, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC)
Chair, Melanoma Committee, SWOG
University of California, Los Angeles
Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D. is a Professor of Medicine, Surgery, and Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He trained at the University of Barcelona, Spain, with postdoctoral research and clinical fellowship at UCLA. He is the Director of the Tumor Immunology Program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC) and the Chair of the Melanoma Committee at SWOG. Dr. Ribas is also a permanent committee member of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant review panels and an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI). As a physician-scientist, Dr Ribas conducts laboratory and clinical research in malignant melanoma, focusing on adoptive cell transfer with T cell receptor (TCR) engineered lymphocytes, anti-CTLA4 antibodies, BRAF-targeted therapies and nanoparticle-siRNA.
Caroline Robert, M.D., Ph.D.
Head, Dermatology Unit
Co-Director, Melanoma Research Unit
Institute Gustave Roussy
Caroline Robert is Head of the Dermatology Unit and Co-director of the Melanoma Translational Research Team INSERM U981 at Gustave-Roussy, Villejuif-Grand-Paris, France. Dr Robert gained her medical degree at the Cochin Port-Royal School of Medicine, Paris, in 1990, after which she was made a faculty member of the graduate school of biological sciences and received her French Board Certification in Dermatology in 1992. On gaining her certification, Dr Robert was appointed Assistant Professor in Dermatology at the St-Louis Hospital, Paris. She completed a research fellowship at Harvard, US and a PhD in cancer immunology and immunotherapy. In 2000, Dr Robert returned to Europe as Medical Director for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Europe. In 2001, she took a position at the Institut Gustave-Roussy as Assistant in Dermatology, before becoming Head of the Dermatology Unit in 2005 and co-director of the Melanoma Translational Research Team INSERM U981 in 2010. She is board member for the European Association of Onco-Dermatology (EADO), past-President of the Melanoma group of the European Organization for the Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), a member of the ESMO, AACR and ASCO. Dr Robert is a scientist of international renown in the clinical and translational research of melanoma and the cutaneous side-effects of new targeted chemotherapies. She has authored more than 250 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, including a number of publications on new treatments for metastatic melanoma and been involved in numerous international clinical trials.
Jonathan Simons, M.D.
Medical Director and Chief Science Officer
Dr. Jonathan W. Simons* is a senior fellow with the Milken Institute and a member of the board of directors of FasterCures. An internationally recognized physician-scientist, oncologist and acclaimed investigator in translational research, he is the Medical Director and CSO at the Marcus Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia.
Prior to this, he served as president and CEO for 14 years at the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) in Santa Monica, Calif. At PCF he led teams of scientists to gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of 16 new therapies during his tenure.
Before joining PCF in 2007, he was Distinguished Service Professor of Hematology and Oncology at the Emory University School of Medicine and Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Materials Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Simons is the founding director of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta , Georgia's first NCI designated cancer center, and was co-director of the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence at Emory and Georgia Tech.
Dr. Simons received a B.A. from Princeton University and an M.D. from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Before entering medical school, he was a Rotary International postgraduate fellow in the humanities at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, and a Nuffield Foundation fellow in the department of biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. Dr. Simons completed his residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School and his fellowship in medical oncology at Johns Hopkins. He has been a funded physician-scientist in prostate cancer by the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense, PCF, and other biomedical research foundations since 1990. He is also board-certified in internal medicine and medical oncology.
Craig Slingluff, M.D.
Vice Chair, Research, Department of Surgery
Director, UVA Cancer Center Human Immune Therapy Center
Co-Chair, Melanoma Committee of ECOG
The University of Virginia
Dr. Craig Slingluff is the Joseph Helms Farrow Professor of Surgery at UVA Health System, where he serves as the vice-chair for research in the Department of Surgery, director of the UVA Cancer Center Human Immune Therapy Center, and co-chair of the Melanoma Committee of ECOG. He has 20 years of experience as a surgical oncologist and as an independent investigator in cancer immunology and immunotherapy, all at UVA.
His research work includes laboratory studies and clinical trials, focused primarily on developing melanoma vaccines and combination immunotherapy, with extensive correlative studies. Since 1996, he has run 19 investigator-initiated clinical trials, most of which have been for melanoma vaccines, especially involving melanoma peptides. These studies have all included intensive immunologic correlates based on evaluating immunologic response in multiple tissue compartments. A major focus of his work now is on characterizing the metastatic melanoma microenvironment, especially including the molecular mediators of immune dysfunction versus tumor rejection.
As a surgical oncologist, he facilitates collection of human tumor tissue for research, and has collected a large human tissue resource for ongoing and future correlative studies. This includes tumor microarrays linked to clinical outcome data. He is dedicated to development of new technologies and therapies for melanoma and other cancers. He has mentored over 20 research fellows and he has been funded continuously by the National Cancer Institute for 20 years for his work in translational and clinical research.
Marisol Soengas, Ph.D.
Leader, Melanoma Group
Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO)
Since 2008, Dr. Soengas leads the Melanoma Group at the CNIO. The main objective of her team is to translate basic research in melanoma to the clinic by identifying novel markers of this disease and targets for drug development. Soengas has been recipient of fellowships and awards from both the Human Frontiers in Science Programme and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America. She has also received a Life Science Biomedical Scholar Award from the University of Michigan, the Diana Ashby Young Investigator Award from the Society for Melanoma Research as well as Career Development Awards from the American Dermatology Foundation, the Elsa V. Pardee Foundation and the V Foundation for Cancer Research. She has also been honoured with the Premio M. Josefa Wonenburger from the Xunta de Galicia.
David B. Solit, M.D.
Director, Marie-Josee & Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Solit is a medical oncologist and laboratory scientist specializing in the treatment of many cancers using chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy, or combinations of these drugs. He is involved with clinical trials, particularly trials of targeted drugs known as kinase inhibitors that block pathways inside cancer cells that cause the cells to grow or spread. Dr. Solit directs the Center for Molecular Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and leads a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, geneticists, bioinformaticians, and laboratory scientists.
Dr. Solit received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Barnes Hospital and a fellowship in medical hematology/oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Susan M. Swetter, M.D.
Assistant Chief, Dermatology Service
Director, Pigmented Lesion & Melanoma Program
Physician Leader, Cancer Care Program in Cutaneous Oncology
Stanford University Medical Center & Cancer Institute
Susan M. Swetter, MD, is Professor of Dermatology and Director of the Pigmented Lesion and Melanoma Program at Stanford University Medical Center and Cancer Institute, as well as Physician Leader of the Cancer Care Program in Cutaneous Oncology. Dr Swetter received her BA with Distinction from the University of Virginia and her MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She completed an internship in internal medicine at University of California San Francisco, followed by a residency and a chief residency in dermatology at Stanford University Medical Center. She joined the Stanford Dermatology faculty in 1994 and has directed the Pigmented Lesion and Melanoma Programs at Stanford and VA Palo Alto since 1995. Dr. Swetter’s research interests include primary and secondary prevention strategies in melanoma and clinical studies of melanoma epidemiology, prognostic factors, and chemoprevention. She serves on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Melanoma Panel and chairs the American Academy of Dermatology melanoma clinical practice guidelines Work Group. Dr. Swetter is the national dermatologist liaison to the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group’s Melanoma Committee and co-directs the Melanoma Prevention Working Group, a multi-center Intergroup collaboration dedicated to cancer control and melanoma prevention.
Jennifer Wargo, M.D., M.Ms. - Chair
Associate Professor, Surgical Oncology
Associate Professor, Genomic Medicine
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Dr. Wargo has significantly contributed to the knowledge of resistance mechanisms and the effect of targeted therapy on anti-tumor immunity. She joined MD Anderson in September 2013 to build a program collecting serial biopsies in patients, particularly those with melanoma, being treated with chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. The goal of this program is to better understand responses to therapy and develop novel strategies to combat resistance. By studying patients with metastatic melanoma initially treated with immune checkpoint blockade, Wargo's research program uncovered important biomarkers of response. Potential mechanisms of therapeutic resistance to immune checkpoint blockade were also identified. These findings were published in the Summer 2016 edition of Cancer Discovery and have far-reaching implications for the use of immune checkpoint blockade in precision medicine. Currently, her team is examining the microbiome — the collective population of microorganisms that live in and on humans — to determine the role it plays in patient response to cancer therapy.
Jeffrey Weber, M.D., Ph. D.
Deputy Director, Perimutter Cancer Center
Co-Director, Melanoma Research Program
New York University Langone Medical Center
Jeffrey Weber is a translational clinician-scientist and clinical trialist with an interest in Immuno-Oncology and the development of new treatment strategies for patients with melanoma. He has been funded by the National Cancer Institute with RO1 funding for over 24 years, has been the principal investigator of the Moffitt Skin SPORE, and is the co-PI of the submitted NYU Melanoma SPORE. He has sat on numerous study sections, chairs the NCI Clinical Oncology Study section and has been instrumental in the development of the three immune oncology agents that have been approved by the FDA for melanoma in the last decade: ipilimumab, nivolumab and pembrolizumab.
Dr. Weber was the first to show, and was the principal investigator of the first trial that demonstrated benefit for PD-1 blocking antibodies in melanoma patients that had failed ipilimumab. He was also the first investigator who demonstrated that PD-1 blocking antibodies had encouraging activity in resected melanoma patients and is the international principal investigator of the first adjuvant trial to show that PD-1 blocking antibody nivolumab showed benefit in patients with surgically resected melanoma at high risk or recurrence. He maintains an active portfolio of clinical trials and runs a laboratory effort in which tumor and blood samples are analyzed for markers that are associated with benefit from novel immune-oncology agents.
Ashani Weeraratna, Ph.D.
Chair, Biochemsitry and Molecular Biology
Professor, Cancer Biology
Co-Program Leader, Cancer Invasion and Metastasis
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Weeraratna studies the molecular mechanisms involved in melanoma metastasis with particular emphasis on the Wnt signaling pathway. She is also interested in examining the changes in the tumor microenvironment and how they affect melanoma progression and therapy resistance, and has a specific interest in how aging promotes tumor progression.
Jedd Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, Clinical Investigation
Chief, Melanoma & Immunotherapeutics Service
Director, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
Associate Director, Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Wolchok ia a medical oncologist who specializes in caring for people with melanoma. As a researcher, he is working to develop innovative ways to use the immune system to treat cancer. He has been at the forefront of cancer immunotherapy as a clinician-scientist and as a principal investigator of several pivotal clinical trials.
In 2011, he established the Immunotherapeutics Clinical Core, a specialized phase I outpatient unit at MSK that conducts novel immunotherapy trials, with a specific emphasis on identifying molecular biomarkers that can predict response. This group treats patients with a variety of cancers and has become a model for similar efforts by other major cancer centers throughout the world.
Dr. Wolchok received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his MD and PhD degrees from New York University, where he also fulfilled his residency program. After completing his fellowship at MSK, he remained on the faculty as part of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service. He is also a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Xu Wu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Dermatology
Massachusetts General Hospital
Before joining the faculty of MGH/HMS, Xu was a PI and Director of Biological Chemistry at Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) for six years. He has been working on chemical biology and drug discovery for regenerative medicine and cancer.
Kai Wucherpfennig, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, Cancer Immunology and Virology
Professor, Immunology, Harvard Medical School
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Dr. Wucherpfennig is a leader in cancer immunology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. He serves as chair of the Department of Cancer Immunology and Virology at the Dana-Farber and is the co-leader of the Cancer Immunology Program of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.
Dr. Wucherpfennig has worked in the T cell immunology field for more than 30 years, with a focus on the molecular mechanisms of antigen presentation and T cell recognition. His lab has defined key features of T cell receptor recognition of peptide-MHC complexes at a structural, biochemical and cellular level, and has also defined the molecular mechanisms responsible for the assembly of the T cell receptor – CD3 complex which is composed of six distinct chains. He showed that the polar interactions among the transmembrane domains that guide TCR-CD3 assembly are also highly relevant for many other receptors in the immune system. Most recently, his lab developed an in vivo shRNA screen to discover key negative regulators of T cell function in the tumor microenvironment. These genes are studied at a mechanistic level and are used as therapeutic targets to improve the efficacy of adoptive T cell therapy against solid tumors.