Alessandra Cesano, MD, PhD • 2019 SITC Election


Alessandra Cesano, MD, PhD has recently joined ESSA as Chief Medical Officer.

Previously she has been the Chief Medical Officer of NanoString Inc from July 2015 until June 2019 where she focused in the development of translational and diagnostic multi-plexed assays for the characterization and measurement of mechanisms of immune response/resistance.

Prior to joining NanoString, Dr. Cesano was Chief Medical Officer at Cleave Biosciences, Inc. and before then she served as Chief Medical Officer and Chief Operations Officer at Nodality, Inc., where she built and led the R and D group, while providing the overall clinical vision for the organization. Between 1998 and 2008, Dr. Cesano held various management positions at Amgen, Biogen Idec and SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, where she helped to advance various oncology drugs through late stage development and FDA approvals.

Early in her professional career Dr. Cesano spent 12 years conducting research in tumor immunology, including nine years at the Wistar Institute, an NCI Basic Cancer Center connected with the University of Pennsylvania.

She also holds membership in several professional and scientific societies including ASCO, ESMO, ASH, EHA, AACR and SITC. In the latter she serves as co-chair in the SITC Industry Committee, Associate Editor for the Biomarker section of JITC and is an active member of the SITC Biomarker Working Group.

Over her careers she has been an author on over 100 publications.

Dr. Cesano received an MD summa cum laude, a Board Certification in Oncology and a PhD in Tumor Immunology from the University of Turin.

SITC Election Platform Statement

What are the two or three critical issues facing the field of cancer immunotherapy?

During the last decade our understanding of cancer immunology has advanced tremendously, resulting in the establishment of cancer immunotherapy as a powerful means to treat cancer, with enormous and as yet un-tapped potential. However, many obstacles still impede the broader success of cancer immunotherapies for a wider variety of organ-defined malignancies and sub-categories of patients within each malignancy.

In my opinion, one of the main challenges that the field of Immuno-Oncology is facing today in order to “make cancer immunotherapy a standard of care and the word cure a reality for cancer patients everywhere” (per the current SITC Vision statement) is the realization of personalized cancer immunotherapy; that is to say the development and implementation of a therapeutic approach which uses specific analytically and clinically validated biomarkers to match, at the level of the individual patient, the mechanisms of immune evasion with the relevant mechanism of action of therapeutic options. I believe that furthering our efforts to establish the reality of this approach will prove critical for unleashing the full potential of any effective therapeutic immune manipulation in oncology. This is a fundamental consequence of the complexity of the interactions between cancerous cells and the immune system, and the diverse set of intrinsic and external factors that, acting together, govern the development, magnitude and timing of an anti-cancer immune response.

What is your vision for SITC?

Any significant and impactful (for the patients) advance in a complex field such as cancer immunotherapy requires the engagement of a diverse group of stakeholders (academia, industry, regulators, payors, treating physicians and patients) working together toward a common goal. “To create a network of stakeholders” has been one of the 2016-2018 strategic priorities of SITC. My vision for SITC would be to further broaden and strengthen SITC-based initiatives which provide the opportunity for a pre-competitive evaluation/analysis of some of the major “common to the field” questions which still need to be answered in order to realize the promise of a cure through cancer immunotherapy.