The American College of Surgeons (ACS) presented the 2018 Jacobson Innovation Award to surgical oncologist Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD, at a dinner held in his honor in Chicago, IL, on June 8. Dr. Rosenberg is chief of the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, MD; and a professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Bethesda, and at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC.
The prestigious Jacobson Innovation Award honors living surgeons who have been innovators of a new development or technique in any field of surgery and is made possible through a gift from Julius H. Jacobson II, MD, FACS, and his wife Joan. Dr. Jacobson is a general vascular surgeon known for his pioneering work in the development of microsurgery.
Dr. Rosenberg was honored with this international surgical award for his pioneering role in the development of immunotherapy and gene therapy. When Dr. Rosenberg began his work in immunotherapy in the late 1970s, little was known about T lymphocyte function in cancer, and there was no convincing evidence that any immune reaction existed in patients against their cancers. Despite this dearth of knowledge, Dr. Rosenberg developed the first effective immunotherapies for selected patients with advanced cancer and was the first to successfully insert foreign genes into humans. His studies of cell transfer immunotherapy resulted in durable complete remissions in patients with metastatic melanoma. Additionally, his studies of the adoptive transfer of genetically modified lymphocytes resulted in the regression of metastatic cancer in patients with melanoma, sarcomas, and lymphomas.
In his current role at the NCI, Dr. Rosenberg oversees the surgery branch’s extensive clinical program, which is aimed at translating scientific advances into effective immunotherapies for cancer patients. Dr. Rosenberg’s current research is focused on defining the host immune response of patients to their cancers. These studies emphasize the ability of human lymphocytes to recognize unique cancer antigens and the identification of anti-tumor T cell receptors that can be exploited to develop new cell transfer immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer patients. Dr. Rosenberg is currently an investigator in 14 clinical trials being conducted through the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research.
Dr. Rosenberg has received numerous awards throughout his distinguished career. In 1981, he received a Meritorious Service Medal from the U.S. Public Health Service for pioneering work in the treatment of soft tissue sarcomas and osteogenic sarcoma. He received that honor again in 1986 for his excellence and leadership in research and clinical investigation relating to the cellular biology and immunology of cancer treatment. Dr. Rosenberg also twice received the Armand Hammer Cancer Prize, in 1985 and 1988, for his cancer research accomplishments. In 1991, he received the highest honor given by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Karnofsky Prize. He was awarded the Flance-Karl Award, the highest honor given by the American Surgical Association, in 2002. In 2005, he received the Richard V. Smalley, MD, Memorial Award, which is the highest honor given by the International Society for Biological Therapy of Cancer. Most recently, he was named the recipient of the Medal of Honor from the American Cancer Society in 2015.
Dr. Rosenberg is currently a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and has served on its board of directors. He also is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the Society of University Surgeons, the American Surgical Association, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the American Association of Immunologists, among others. He has authored more than 1,100 articles in scientific literature covering various aspects of cancer research, as well as eight books. He was the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Immunotherapy from 1990 to 1995, and again from 2000 to the present.
For a list of previous Jacobson Innovation Award winners, visit the ACS website at facs.org/about-acs/ governance/acs-committees/honorscommittee/jacobson-list.