The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of immunotherapies for all forms of cancer, will bestow its highest honors on three scientists who have made fundamental contributions to the fields of immunology and cancer immunotherapy.

CRI will present the awards at its annual gala celebrating CRI's 65th birthday, taking place on Thursday, October 25, 2018, at The Metropolitan Club in New York City.

Miriam Merad, M.D., Ph.D., of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, will receive the 2018 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Immunology in recognition of her important contributions relating to the biology of macrophages and dendritic cells, which are important immune cells that can engulf tumor cells and present tumor antigens to orchestrate adaptive immune responses against cancer.

However, certain subsets of macrophages are also capable of behavior that suppresses antitumor immunity and promotes the development and progression of cancer.

Among her contributions are discoveries that revealed the embryonic origin of macrophages as well as the local factors that maintain their distinct populations within tissues.

She has also provided groundbreaking insights into the mechanisms that control the development, homeostasis, and function of macrophages and dendritic cells, including defining their roles in the context of immunotherapy and tumor development.

Dr. Merad is currently a professor of Oncological Science and Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and serves as the director of the Precision Immunotherapy Institute and the program leader of the Cancer Immunology/Immunotherapy Group at the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai.

Contributions to cancer immunotherapy

Receiving the 2018 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology is Padmanee Sharma, M.D., of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who has made a number of important contributions to cancer immunotherapy.

The discovery included the instrumental role that the co-stimulatory ICOS pathway plays in promoting tumor elimination after treatment with anti-CTLA-4 checkpoint immunotherapy, which in 2011 became the first checkpoint immunotherapy to receive FDA approval.

She also pioneered the use of immune checkpoint therapy, such as anti-CTLA-4 therapy, prior to surgery in order to evaluate the immunologic impact of these agents within the tumor microenvironment and determine the safety profile of these agents in combination with surgery to effectively treat cancer patients. This treatment strategy is currently being developed for multiple tumor types.

Dr. Sharma is currently a professor of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology in the Division of Cancer Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where she is also scientific director of the Immunotherapy Platform.

Each Coley Award honoree will receive a $5,000 prize and a gold medallion bearing the likeness of Coley. Additionally, Dr. Sharma will deliver the William B. Coley Lecture during this year's CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference (CICON), which will take place September 30-October 3, 2018, in New York City. Dr. Merad will also be giving a talk on her current research at the conference.