Ignacio Melero earned an MD degree from the University of Navarra School of Medicine (1988) and was trained as a resident in clinical immunology at Hospital de la Princesa (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid). He also attained a PhD degree working with Dr. Miguel Lopez-Botet pioneering the characterization of NK cell inhibitory receptors (KIRs). In 1994 he moved to Seattle, WA where he worked on tumor immunology and immunotherapy, studying T cell ignorance of tumor antigens and the role of T cell costimulation in mouse models of cancer. His studies of that time on CD137-mediated co-stimulation of curative antitumor immune responses have received much attention by the immunotherapy of cancer community and have resulted in therapeutic agents undergoing phase II clinical trials. Since 1998 he returned to Navarra University where he currently serves as a full professor of Immunology at the Clinica Universidad de Navarra (where he heads the department) and at the investigation centre CIMA. His current areas of research are focused on from bench to bed side translational research with cell, gene and monoclonal antibody-mediated strategies of immunotherapy for cancer. Dr. Melero has authored over 180 indexed publications attaining an h factor of 45 with over 6,000 citations in the biomedical literature. He has been awarded the BIAL Medicine Award, Conde de Cartagena Award from the Royal Academy of Medicine, Doctor Durantez LAIR Foundation Award and a CRI research award.
What are the two or three critical issues facing the field of cancer immunotherapy?
1. Personalized/precison immunotherapy. As we are clinically developing powerful combinations of immunotherapy agents we must learn, define and exploit immune biomarker information to make the most of immunotherapy in terms of clinical efficacy.
2. Funding for basic and tranlational research in cancer immunotherapy. Particularly funding for support of of new talent and junior faculty.
3. Proper prioritization of the field worldwide involving education of cancer physicians (clinical oncologists surgeons, radiotherapy specialists, etc.)
4. Timely patient access to newly approved immunotherapy treatments.
What is your vision for SITC?
SITC comes from the international association of biological therapy (IOBTC) that was very timely refurbished in the point of time when recent successes development of ipilimumab and adoptive T cell therapy opened a period of very fast progress. A group of relatively young and talented tumor immunologists with different backgrounds undertook the task of reforming the society and worked as a team to make the most of it in an unselfish manner. The fruits are truly self evident: A lively Annual Meeting gathering, excellent preclinical and clinical research, a prestigious journal crossing the death valley towards indexing, and an influential voice upon key decision making lobbying on behalf of its growing number of members. From Europe this success is more clearly perceived, since no real equivalent for SITC has been made possible. The created atmosphere is unique as can be seen for example when the CheckPoints band is playing and the rest of us are dancing. Towards the future, the goal of the crew at the helm is to keep the set course and perhaps to further internationalize the society.