Purpose

Cancer immunotherapy is a rapidly evolving field that holds much justified hope and promise based on the striking and durable clinical activity observed in multiple patients. Many key elements for constructing highly effective cancer immunotherapies have been identified and new advancements are being made daily. Clinicians and researchers around the world are beginning to understand how to put these pieces together and moving closer to our primary goal of bringing lasting benefit to all victims of this horrible disease.

ACIR’s mission is to accelerate the advancement of cancer immunotherapy by providing, free-of-charge and readily accessible on the internet, a weekly synopsis of the key advances in this fast moving and multifaceted field. Up-to-date knowledge is critical to fostering the necessary creativity and productivity of researchers, but this is a daunting, time-consuming, and inefficient task for individual researchers, and thus often left undone. We hope that by making it easier for all researchers to stay up to date, our summary will enhance the work of many, bringing us ever closer to curing this deadly disease.

We strive to provide meaningful and unbiased content, and to not favor any approach, product or research team. We encourage our readers to read the original articles for full details.

Origins

The Fritsch Foundation, a charitable, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, had its earliest roots in 2011 when Jan, Ed Fritsch’s wife of almost 40 years, passed away from breast cancer. Trying to find some way to battle back against this terrible disease, Ed searched the recent cancer literature daily, and came across immunotherapy. Sadly, four years later, Ed’s son Matt passed away from melanoma. Matt, a successful engineer at SpaceX, had expressed the wish to his friend that if the cancer took him, he wanted his SpaceX stock donated to cancer research. Ed and Matt’s sisters Lisa and Katie all thought this was a wonderful request to honor.

Trying to find a creative way to use the funds, Ed recalled the value of staying up to date on the current literature. Applied to the rapidly expanding and fast-moving field of cancer immunotherapy, digesting and categorizing the rapid advancements would be an exceptional resource to researchers everywhere. This was how the Fritsch Foundation was born – inspired by the kind and selfless generosity of a cancer victim.

Ed discussed this with Ute Burkhardt, got her intrigued by the idea, and they have been building on it ever since. In the fall of 2015, Accelerating Cancer Immunotherapy Research (ACIR) was formed to carry out the mission of the Fritsch Foundation.

The field of cancer immunotherapy has exploded in recent years, drawing on the creativity and experience of scientists, clinicians, and patient advocates. ACIR does an incredible job of bringing these groups together toward a common goal of eliminating cancer by disseminating important research findings to the community at large.

— James Allison, PhD

Professor and Chair, Department of Immunology; Executive Director, Immunotherapy Platform; Director, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy; and Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair-Immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

As a researcher bridging the science and clinical translation of the exciting discoveries of cancer immunotherapy, I applaud the efforts of ACIR to help me, my post-docs and students, and my colleagues keep up to date on all the key innovations driving this field. New knowledge continually refines our current thinking and ACIR keeps that new knowledge fresh and at our fingertips.

— Catherine Wu, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School; Institute Member, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

There is a critical need to provide reliable information to physicians and researchers. Key limitations are the large amount of data that is being published and the multiple clinical trials available. I welcome the efforts by ACIR to make sense out of all this data and provide a reliable source of information for researchers in cancer immunotherapy.

— Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine, Surgery, Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the University of California (UCLA); Director of the Tumor Immunology Program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC); Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI) Center at UCLA

The work of ACIR is so beautifully targeted on something that has the potential of being truly useful even in the earliest stages. What a great idea!

— John Petricciani, MD

President of the International Alliance for Biological Standardization (IABS); Former Director of the Center for Biologics at FDA and former Chief Medical Officer of the Biologicals Unit at WHO

Our understanding of the interaction between the immune system and cancer cells, and also the ways to exploit this interaction clinically, is growing faster than ever before. There is no reliable source of information that can help clinicians and researchers in this field stay up-to-date, and by filling this gap, ACIR facilitates the development of effective cancer immunotherapies for an increasing number of patient groups.

— Ton Schumacher, PhD

Deputy Director of the Netherlands Cancer Institute; Professor of Immunotechnology at Leiden University, The Netherlands; Chief Scientific Officer of Kite Pharma EU; SU2C-CRI Immunotherapy Dream Team member

Cancer Immunotherapy is providing patients with novel and durable treatments and the number of available therapies keeps growing. The mission of ACIR is to accelerate the pace by which the field develops through mapping out the research and clinical landscapes and keeping track of key advances in the field. It has my total support!!

— Robert D. Schreiber, PhD

Alumni Endowed Professor of Pathology and Immunology and Professor of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine, MO; Director of the Washington University Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs; Associate Director of the Scientific Advisory Board to the CRI

I fully support the important initiative of ACIR. The field of cancer immunotherapy grows at an exciting pace. Staying on top of foundational discoveries in the field, which is conveniently processed on ACIR, is key for coming up with important new hypotheses about immunotherapeutic cancer treatment strategies.

— Glenn Dranoff, MD, PhD

Global Head of Immuno-Oncology, Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research

I fully endorse the mission of ACIR to provide a weekly synopsis of the scientific literature in cancer immunotherapy. The value of this approach has been clearly demonstrated by a program I have been involved in with the Prize4Life Foundation, which is dedicated to curing ALS. ALS Forum provides ALS research summaries as well as other content related to clinical trials and is widely used by the ALS research community to keep up to date.

— Tom Maniatis, PhD

Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York, and Director of the University wide Columbia Precision Medicine Initiative (CPMI)

ACIR has identified a great way to meet the critical need of researchers and clinicians everywhere to stay up to date with the literature in the fast moving and life-saving field of cancer immunotherapy. This will be a fine living tribute to your son Matt and has the potential to help many future cancer victims!

— James S. Economou, MD, PhD

Beaumont Professor of Surgery, Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, and Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

I am pleased to voice my support for the mission of ACIR to keep cancer immunotherapy researchers up to date with the current advancements in the field. Given the magnitude of new information emerging from this field, I particularly appreciate their efforts to both identify and highlight the key advancements each week and to distill the new information to key take-away points that can be easily grasped.

— Nir Hacohen, PhD

Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director, MGH Center for Cancer Immunology; Institute Member, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

Who We Are

Ed Fritsch

Ed Fritsch

Ed Fritsch-LinkedIn

President

Ed is the founder of The Fritsch Foundation and holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology. As a postdoctoral research fellow in Tom Maniatis’ lab he helped build the first library of the human genome and later was co-author of  ‘‘Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual’’, which helped spread the application of recombinant technology in the  biomedical sciences. He worked at the Genetics Institute and later as the CSO of Phylos Inc. Like too many others, Ed lost loved ones – his  wife Jan and son Matt – to cancer, which inspired him to battle back and led him to be specifically interested in cancer immunotherapy. As NeoVax project leader at the Dana-Farber-Cancer Institute and now as a founder and CTO of Neon Therapeutics, he helps bring personalized neoantigen-based cancer vaccines to the patient.

Ute Burkhardt

Ute Burkhardt

Ute Burkhardt-LinkedIn

Chief Medical Scientist - Executive Editor

Ute's career path has been characterized by a strong focus on cancer immunotherapy. She received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany, for studies that focused on optimizing cancer vaccine design using murine models in Winfried Wels’ lab. In her postdoctoral work in Cathy J. Wu’s lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute she developed innovative approaches to dissect the global and clonal dynamics of T cell responses underlying promising graft-versus-leukemia activity in patients with chronic leukemia after post-transplant personalized vaccination. Ute has been actively involved in designing and building ACIR since its inception.

Lauren Hitchings

Lauren Hitchings

Lauren Hitchings-LinkedIn

Scientific Writer

Lauren is a scientific writer with a degree in Biology from Northeastern University and a broad background in scientific research, journalism, publishing, and communications. Her previous work has appeared in New Scientist, Reviewed, USA Today, and Wired UK. She specializes in translating highly complex scientific content into curated writing and schematic illustrations that are easy to digest.

Anna Scherer

Anna Scherer

Anna Scherer-LinkedIn

Scientific Writer

Anna brings years of experience in writing and a multidisciplinary background in science and engineering to her role as a Scientific Writer at ACIR. As a medical writer, Anna has written on a vast number of topics, including oncology, rare diseases, and multiple sclerosis. Prior to starting her career as a writer, Anna worked as a research scientist and engineer in the fields of biotechnology, materials, and aerospace. Anna holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University, and an M.Eng. in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT.

Gaelle Lespinasse-Llambi

Gaelle Lespinasse-Llambi

Gaelle Lespinasse-Llambi-LinkedIn

Communications and Outreach Coordinator

Gaelle has a background in communications and public relations. She has a long experience in promoting non-profit organizations through traditional media and social media. She has developed educational programs and outreach strategies for several cultural organizations. She thrives to advocate for ACIR’s mission among the scientific community and the general public to promote and foster a deeper understanding of immunotherapy. She holds a Master in International and Intercultural Communications from the Université de Bourgogne (Dijon, France).

Alex Najibi

Alex Najibi

Alex Najibi-LinkedIn

Freelance Scientific Writer

Alex completed his B.S. in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Bioengineering at Harvard University in David Mooney’s laboratory. His research interests include biomaterials for therapeutic vaccination against cancer and strategies to modulate the tumor microenvironment. He is excited to develop as a scientific writer and make current immunotherapy research more accessible with ACIR.

Katherine J. Turner

Katherine J. Turner

Katherine J. Turner-LinkedIn

Contributing Scientific Writer and Editor

Katherine has over thirty-five years of experience in biotechnology and has extensive knowledge in all aspects of research from discovery through clinical development and the market. Her knowledge spans a wide range of therapeutic areas including oncology, hematopoiesis, transplantation, neurobiology, tissue repair, and fibrosis. She has played key scientific roles in early-stage companies such as Scholar Rock and Attogen and has held senior management positions in pioneering companies including Genetics Institute and Biogen. She received her PhD in Biochemistry from Virginia Tech, and obtained post-doctoral training at the Courtauld Institute for Biochemistry in London, UK and Brandeis University.

Stan Wolf

Stan Wolf

Stan Wolf-LinkedIn

Contributing Scientist Writer and Editor

Stan has more than 30 years of laboratory and managerial experience in genetics, molecular biology, and immunology. Stan has worked to identify and validate novel immune and inflammation-related disease targets, and was a member of the Leadership Team in the Pfizer Inflammation group. Stan received a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Washington University and obtained post-doctoral training and worked as an Assistant Professor in the Genetics Unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore before joining the Genetics Institute and pursuing a career in pharmaceutical development. Most recently, Stan has worked in science education, developing project-based science curricula and teaching science at the elementary and middle school levels.

Samuel (Sandy) Goldman

Samuel (Sandy) Goldman

Samuel (Sandy) Goldman-LinkedIn

Contributing Scientific Writer and Editor

Sandy has worked as a discovery/preclinical research scientist in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry since 1990 and as an independent consultant and adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University since 2010. Sandy received his BS from Cornell, his MS from University of Illinois, and his PhD from University of Massachusetts. Sandy joined Genetics Institute in 1990 as a Staff Scientist after 3 years as a post-doctoral fellow in Immunology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Sandy has broad experience in discovery research and preclinical biology and his areas of expertise include inflammation, immunology, and cytokine biology. He has worked in a number of therapeutic areas including oncology, autoimmunity, hematopoiesis, and respiratory disease. He has extensive experience developing biotherapeutics as well as small molecule therapeutics from early discovery through development and early clinical proof of concept. After leaving the pharmaceutical industry in 2010, Sandy spent several years consulting and taught the “Introduction to Biotechnology” course for Master students at Northeastern University from 2015 to 2017.

Paula Hochman

Paula Hochman

Paula Hochman-LinkedIn

Contributing Scientific Writer and Editor

Paula holds a Ph.D. in immunology and has more than 3 decades of experience in the academic and biotechnology sectors. In 21 years at Biogen doing basic and translational research, and pre-clinical and clinical development sciences, Paula worked to elucidate and patent novel biological pathways and methods, and to develop novel therapeutics from discovery to clinic to market. She contributed to the development, registration, and lifecycle management of Amevive for psoriasis, and Avonex, Plegridy, Tysabri, and Zinbryta for multiple sclerosis.

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