Carl H. June, MD, Honored With 2023 AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research

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The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will award Carl H. June, MD, with the 2023 AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research during the AACR Annual Meeting 2023, taking place from April 14 to 19 in Orlando, Florida. Dr. June is the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, Director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is recognized for his groundbreaking work in developing the first gene-edited cell therapy for cancer and for demonstrating that adoptive T-cell therapy can induce remission—and in some cases—cure patients with advanced cancer.

Carl H. June, MD

Carl H. June, MD

The AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was established to honor individuals who have made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work. These contributions, whether in research, leadership, or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field, and the recipient must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer.

Following his early report of synthetic T-cell activation nearly 30 years ago, Dr. June successfully developed a method of producing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells to treat refractory and relapsed leukemia. This technology, which involves the genetic reengineering of a patient’s T cells to combat their disease, is the first gene transfer therapy technique that has demonstrated sustained success in patients with cancer and has shown tremendous promise for the treatment of hematologic malignancies.

Dr. June demonstrated that it is possible to genetically alter patient-derived T cells to enable them to specifically recognize and kill cells that overexpress certain proteins, such as the CD19 (cluster of differentiation 19) antigen. There are now six U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved CAR T-cell therapies for multiple blood cancers, including, most recently, two approvals for multiple myeloma. Some of the earliest patients treated with these therapies have experienced long-lasting remissions stretching past 10 years. This form of precision medicine represents the first therapy ever developed entirely in an academic setting to receive Breakthrough Therapy designation by the FDA.

Dr. June’s seminal contributions have not only led to the establishment of CAR T-cell therapy for blood cancers—applications in chronic infections and autoimmune diseases are now being investigated. Dr. June and his research team at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center continue to report on numerous aspects of fundamental CAR T-cell biology, while remaining at the forefront of developing the next generation of CAR T-cell therapies.

“Dr. June is a trailblazer in the field of cancer immunotherapy whose scientific expertise and vision for the field have been crucial to pivotal scientific discoveries that have improved and saved many lives from cancer,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), Chief Executive Officer of the AACR. “His work has transformed the treatment of hematologic malignancies and holds great promise for many other types of cancer. We are grateful for Dr. June’s numerous scientific contributions and are thrilled to recognize him with this prestigious award.”

Dr. June has received many awards throughout his illustrious career, including the following:

  • Keio Medical Science Prize (2022)
  • ASCO David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture (2017)
  • Novartis Prize in Immunology (2016)
  • Award for Distinguished Research in Biomedical Sciences from the Association of American Medical Colleges (2015)
  • Donnall Thomas Prize from the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (2015)
  • Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize from the Paul Ehrlich Foundation (2015)
  • Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence (2014)
  • Association for the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award (2014)
  • Philadelphia Award (2013)
  • Cancer Research Institute William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology (2012)
  • Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy Joan Miller and Linda Bernstein Gene Therapy Ovarian Cancer Award (2008)
  • Bristol Myers Squibb Freedom to Discover Award (2005–2009)
  • Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer (2005)
  • Keio Medical Science Prize (2022)
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America Lifetime Achievement Award (2002).

Dr. June is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Science. He has been a member of the AACR since 2000; served as a member of the AACR Board of Directors from 2018 to 2021; and was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2017. In 2015, June received the AACR-Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology.

He is currently a senior editor for Cancer Immunology Research and an editorial board member for Blood Cancer Discovery, and was previously an associate editor for Cancer Research. He has served as Vice Chair and Co-Chair of the AACR Annual Meeting Program Committee, and has been a member of the AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology Committee, AACR Translational Cancer Research Grants Scientific Review Committee, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Grants for Translational Breast Cancer Research Scientific Review Committee, and the AACR’s Cancer Immunology Working Group. Dr. June has also served as Co-Chair of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)-CRI Joint Scientific Advisory Committee and as Progress Review Committee Leader for the SU2C-CRI Cancer Immunology Dream Team (the AACR is the Scientific Partner of SU2C).

Dr. June received his undergraduate degree in biology at the United States Naval Academy and his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine. He completed a research fellowship at the World Health Organization Immunology Research and Training Center in Geneva, Switzerland, and a fellowship in oncology at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.

The date, time, and title of Dr. June’s award lecture will be announced prior to the AACR Annual Meeting 2023.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.