Daniel J. Powell, PhD • 2022 SITC Election

Daniel J. Powell, PhD
University of Pennsylvania

Daniel J. PowellBiography

Dan Powell, Ph.D. is a long-standing contributor to the Society.

Dan is a SITC Champion and has participated in various SITC-associated programs for nearly two decades. He has been a member since its renaming in 2010 and his service to the society includes  SITC’s Cell Therapy Task Force (2021-2022); Annual Meeting Session Organizing Committee (2013-2014); Organizer of the Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School (2021-2022); Organizer of the Joint SITC-FOCIS Symposium (2020-2022); Membership Committee (2015-present); Stakeholders Advisory Council for Immunotherapy Education & Outreach (Member & Vice Chair, 2016-present); SITC's Sparkathon (2018); SITC Representative to FITCancer-5 (Madrid, Spain, 2018); Education and Chair-elect and member of SITC’s Training Committee Member (2018-2022. You may also recognize Dr. Powell as a guest singer with the Checkpoints!

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. Among other roles, he is also the incoming Chair of the NIH Cancer Immunopathology & Immunotherapy Study Section, a member of the DoD’s Ovarian Cancer Academy, advisor for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation and the Director of Education for the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy program at UPenn. Earlier in his career, Dan trained under Dr. Steven Rosenberg at the Surgery Branch, NCI.

Dr. Powell’s research is focused on solid tumor immunobiology and translational immunotherapy with an emphasis on ovarian cancer. Many of his research contributions become tenants of the cancer immunotherapy field such as the defining the association between infused T cell persistence and response to adoptive immunotherapy as well as the association between T cell differentiation state and clonal persistence after infusion. His other seminal work includes the discovery of biomarkers for tumor-specific TIL enrichment, the first development of universal CAR platforms, and the application of CAR T cell therapy in canine cancer patients. As a long-standing member of the SITC community, his overarching research mission is to educate and train the next generation of cancer researchers, and to bring immunotherapy to the forefront of cancer treatment.

SITC Election Platform Statement

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

Support & Educate Cancer Immunology Researchers: A new generation of investigators is now working toward developing independent careers in the field of cancer immunotherapy, or transitioning to this new area of investigation. SITC has played a role in supporting these individuals, but heavy competition and tight grant paylines still remain a challenge for these investigators. Engaging, educating and mentoring these individuals is central to their career growth and to the core mission of SITC. As the field grows, SITC has the opportunity to strengthen its educational position by 1) providing educational forums and networking opportunities for those seeking to join and expand the community, 2) educating and advising regulatory officials on emerging immunotherapy treatments, and 3) creating additional funding opportunities to support early career investigators in cancer immunotherapy, thereby providing a foundation upon which to grow.

 Overcoming barriers to delivering personalized immunotherapy: Immunotherapeutic strategies are becoming more personalized in nature. Progress has been made in bringing immunotherapy to patients, but there remains a need for investment in both infrastructure and expertise to support clinical development and to address practical and technical obstacles to efficient time to clinical translation. I envision SITC playing a major role in creating supportive regulatory advisory teams, making recommendations on standardization of methodologies and protocols, engaging and educating policy makers, and supporting efforts to identify predictive biomarkers for response to immunotherapy that stratify patients to the most promising and safe immunotherapy treatment. By doing so, SITC will help cultivate and revolutionize cancer treatment, reduce the cost of treatment and improve patient access to therapy.

 Bringing effective immunotherapy to patients with weakly immunogenic cancers: Immunotherapy has revolutionized the way we treat certain cancers yet, for many patients, immunotherapy is not effective. Treating immunologically cold or immunotherapy-resistant cancers will require a re-commitment to basic research, and a renaissance in clinical trials that are founded upon sound scientific rationale, and not upon drug availability alone. Also, in weakly immunogenic cancer patients, immunotherapy is often tested after the patient's immune system has been corrupted by multiple lines of chemotherapy. Identifying strategies that allow clinicians to efficiently bring immunotherapy closer to frontline treatment in these cancer types without compromising patient safety requires investigation.

What is your vision for SITC?

I envision strengthening SITC's role as the definitive source for scientific exchange and interaction, education, mentorship, advocacy and clinical care policy in cancer immunotherapy. As a reliable and effective communicator of important and sometime complex discoveries to our communities, I envision expanding SITC's strategic objective of serving a leader in educating policy makers, as well as researchers, physicians, clinical staff, advocates and/or patients who are interested in learning about basic and clinical cancer immunotherapy research. Strengthening and broadening the reach of SITC's educational and advisory initiatives will serve to engage new minds and expand clinical trial initiatives to address some of the most pressing questions remaining in the cancer immunotherapy field. As we emerge from the constraints of the pandemic, it will be more important for SITC to widen access to its educational programs and clinics, to partner with industry and other societies to create additional travel grants, research fellowship awards and partnership opportunities, and to foster new partnerships with international societies.