Dr. Wolchok is Chief of the Immuno-Oncology Service and holds The Lloyd J. Old Chair in Clinical Investigation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Wolchok is a clinician-scientist exploring innovative immunotherapeutic strategies in laboratory models, and a principal investigator in numerous pivotal clinical trials. Dr. Wolchok has helped establish MSK as a leader in the discovery and treatment of cancers with novel immunotherapies. Dr. Wolchok was instrumental in the clinical development leading to the approval of ipilimumab for advanced melanoma. He supervises an NIH R01-funded basic science laboratory which is focused on investigating novel immunotherapeutic agents in pre-clinical laboratory models. The focus of his translational research laboratory is to investigate innovative means to modulate the immune response to cancer as well as to better understand the mechanistic basis for sensitivity and resistance to currently available immunotherapies. Dr. Wolchok received his BA degree from Princeton University, and his MS, PhD and MD degrees from New York University. Dr. Wolchok has received numerous honors for his work including: the Alfred Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Research, the American Association for Cancer Research Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award, the Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair for Clinical Investigation, the Melanoma International Foundation's Doctor of the Year Award, the Melanoma Research Foundation – Humanitarian Award, and the Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator Award.
SITC Election Platform Statement
What are the two or three critical issues facing the field of cancer immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy has reached significant milestones in clinical impact in the past few years, yet many challenges remain. First is the need reform the ways in which clinical trials of new agents and combinations are designed, conducted and analyzed. We must incorporate relevant learnings from basic science investigations when considering how to pair agents. Importantly, we must also have realistic expectations of clinical outcomes, especially of early phase trials of new agents. We should be including relevant pharmacodynamic mechanistic endpoints in all trials. Second, our field needs to embrace a ‘precision medicine mindset’ and begin to make the intellectual and financial investment in identifying biomarkers for each agent and combination brought to the clinic. A long-term goal will be to deliver to our patients an ability to profile their tumor and blood at time of diagnosis to propose the most effective immunotherapy-containing therapy or combination possible. Third, we need to focus on optimizing our ability to stratify risk of recurrence in the adjuvant setting and in patients who have responded to immunotherapy. Being able to quantify minimal residual disease (versus no evidence of disease) is critical for optimizing risk and benefit and also for establishing rational times for treatment discontinuation. Minimizing the financial impact of treatment with immunotherapy agents for our patients can at least be partially addressed with this type of information.
What is your vision for SITC?
My vision for SITC is to ensure the growth and impact of an organization which has been steadfastly focused on our field since before it was ‘in vogue.’ I attended my first Society for Biologic Therapy (forerunner of SITC) meeting in Williamsburg, VA in 1993. I believe we have come a very long way since those pioneering days. We need ensure its financial future, especially in times of uncertainty for large in-person gatherings. This is challenging but very possible for our wonderful group. Continuing to serve our membership with timely delivery of the most important advances in the field, along with education of the wider field of cancer care clinicians are vital and laudable goals. SITC has come a very long way in a short time. We can have even more profound impact on our own and in partnerships such as the one formed with ASCO.