Madhav Dhodapkar, MD • 2019 SITC Election


Dr Madhav Dhodapkar is the Director of Winship Center for Cancer Immunology, Anise McDaniel Brock Chair, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Cancer Innovation and Professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Emory School of Medicine. Prior to moving to Emory in March 2018, Dhodapkar served as Chief of Hematology, the Arthur H. and Isabel Bunker Professor of Medicine (Hematology), and Professor of Immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine. He also served as the co-director of the cancer immunology program at Yale Cancer Center.

Dr Dhodapkar earned his medical degree from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi and completed his fellowship in oncology at the Mayo Clinic. Prior to Yale, Dhodapkar served on the faculty at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and as Head of Lab of Tumor Immunology at The Rockefeller University in New York. Dr Dhodapkar has authored more than 150 original scientific papers. He is a prior recipient of several awards including the National Institutes of Health Director’s Transformative Research Award and the National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award. He has served SITC in several roles including as main organizing committee of annual meeting (2015), and chair of the clinical immunotherapy guidelines (CIG) committee for myeloma (2016-present) and chair of the CIG oversight committee (2015-2018), ASCO-SITC meeting program committee (present) and editor for JITC (present).

SITC Election Platform Statement

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

Improving clinical efficacy of current immune therapies.

The past few years have been transformative in the field of cancer immunotherapy. However much more still remains to be done. Majority of cancer patients have not yet benefited from these therapies. Therefore, there is an unmet need to better understand the reasons why certain tumor types do or do not respond to existing therapies, and develop/test new approaches or combinations targeting resistant tumors. Even in settings where these therapies work, we need to optimize their application in the clinic, improving access, strategies for patient selection, and managing toxicities.

Understanding and translating new biology

I believe the breakthroughs with immune checkpoint blockade simply represent the tip of the iceberg. Deeper understanding of the basic biology of the immune system in the context of cancer as well as its precursor states is essential to not only provide new insights into mechanism of action of current therapies, but more importantly identify novel targets to manipulate the immune system to treat and prevent cancer. We stand at an exciting time in biology wherein new powerful tools to probe the immune system are likely to provide fundamental insights into new biology and platforms for discovery. Testing and translating these insights to the clinic will be essential to realize the potential for immunotherapy of cancer.

What is your vision for SITC?

As the only US-based organization dedicated specifically for immunotherapy of cancer, my vision for SITC as an organization is to be the foremost champion for cancer immunotherapy to all key stakeholders, including physicians, researchers, patients and industry. Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve SITC in several roles and have seen first-hand as to how SITC can impact and help its membership and stakeholders. This has included organizing the annual meeting, participating in the immunology primer, serving as the chair for clinical immunotherapy guidelines and oversight committees, editor for basic science section of JITC and serving on biomarker and other task forces. I have also contributed to forging relationships between SITC and other organizations such as ASCO and ASH. With a membership that includes most key opinion leaders in the field, SITC should be the “go to” organization that provides updated guidance to the practicing clinicians and patients in the rapidly changing field of cancer immunotherapy. SITC should also create strong partnerships with other organizations, to serve as the glue that brings researchers, funders / philanthropy and industry together and create teams to ask the big questions in cancer immunology. Most importantly, it should provide a home for the next generation of cancer immunologists, creating opportunities for mentoring, networking, participation in committees and platforms for career advancement. In a rapidly changing field of cancer immunotherapy, it is essential that SITC actively engage all of its stakeholders (including acedemia and industry), and provide them greater opportunities for participation in SITC programs and serve as a strong voice to identify / address their unmet needs.