Dr. Powell is the Scientific Director of Immunotherapy in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania and an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Dr. Powell also is a member of the Department of Defense’s Ovarian Cancer Academy, and serves as the Director of Education for the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy program at Penn. Dr. Powell serves on various foundation and industry advisory boards as well as grant review committees, including the NIH Cancer Immunopathology and Immunotherapy Study Section. Dr. Powell’s research is focused on solid tumor immunobiology and translational immunotherapy. Among his contributions to the field, he is recognized for his role in defining the association between T cell persistence and response to adoptive T cell therapy, the association between T cell differentiation and their persistence after infusion, new biomarkers for tumor-specific tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, and the role of CD27 in human T cell memory formation, as well as the development of novel universal CAR platforms, autologous humanized patient-derived xenograft models, new agents to deplete immunosuppressive cell subsets in vivo, and the first application of CAR T cell therapy in canine cancer. Dr. Powell maintains a research laboratory that continues to develop innovative immunotherapeutic strategies, with an increasing focus on public neoantigen targeting, gene-engineered TIL therapeutics, next-generation universal CAR T cell products, biomarker discovery, targeted disruption of the tumor microenvironment, and novel combination strategies for the treatment of a variety of malignancies.
Dr. Powell has participated in SITC-associated programs for nearly two decades and has been a member since its renaming in 2010. His service to the society includes roles on SITC’s Annual Meeting Session Organizing Committee (2013-2014); Membership Committee (2015-present); Stakeholders Advisory Council for Immunotherapy Education & Outreach (Member & Vice Chair, 2016-present); Joint SITC-FOCIS Symposium (Organizer, 2020-2021); SITC Sparkathon (Mentor, 2018); SITC Representative to FITCancer-5 (Madrid, Spain, 2018); Education and Training Committee (Member, 2018-2022); Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School (Organizer, 2021-2022) and Chair of SITC’s Education and Training Committee for 2023-2024.
SITC Election Platform Statement
What are the two or three critical issues facing the field of cancer immunotherapy?
Overcoming barriers to delivering personalized immunotherapy: Immunotherapeutic strategies are becoming more personalized in nature. These treatments can be highly effective, but there remains a need for investment in infrastructure and expertise to support these efforts and to address practical and technical obstacles to efficient turnaround time and product availability. There is also a need to create highly precise methods and predictive biomarkers for response to immunotherapy that directed individual patients to the most promising immunotherapy treatment, avoid adverse events and prevent resistance to therapy. Finally, cost obstacles, especially at this early phase of immunotherapy’s availability, still remain high. Therefore, there remains a need to overcome pipeline challenges and to reduce the cost of goods.
A return to science: The clinical testing of new immunotherapy agents and novel immunotherapy combinations needs to return to being driven by scientific rationale, not based upon the availability of these agents alone. Furthermore, in many cancers, immunotherapy is being tested after the patient has relapsed after multiple lines of chemotherapy and their immune system is corrupted. Identifying strategies that allow clinicians to move immunotherapy closer to frontline without compromising patient safety requires investigation.
Support Cancer Immunology Researchers: A whole new generation of investigators is now working toward developing a career in cancer immunotherapy. Although some progress has been made, heavy competition and tight grant paylines still remain a challenge for these individuals. Engaging, educating and mentoring these trainees is central to their career growth and to SITC’s mission, and is a step in the right direction, but there remains a need to create additional funding opportunities to support these early career investigators in cancer immunotherapy and allow them to create a foundation upon which to thrive.
What is your vision for SITC?
My vision for SITC is that it serve as the definitive source for scientific exchange and interaction, education, mentorship, advocacy and clinical care policy in cancer immunotherapy. In this exciting phase of the Immunotherapy Revolution, I envision SITC acting as a reliable and effective communicator of important and sometime complex discoveries to our communities. I also envision SITC playing an important role as the leader in educating researchers, physicians, clinical staff, advocates or patients who are interested in learning more about cancer immunotherapy research and treatment. To support our early and mid-stage researchers and clinicians, I would like to widen access to SITC educational programs and clinics, partner with industry and other societies to create additional travel grants and fellowship award opportunities, and to continue to extend our reach and foster our partnerships with international societies.
If elected to the Board of Directors, I will serve our SITC community by enabling the teamwork required to make the next advances in cancer immunotherapy research. I will ensure that our collective mission to develop and apply the best science for cancer patients is accelerated by bringing people together in new alliances to pursue strategic objectives and creative new directions. I will promote efforts to train and mentor the next generation of investigators.