Scientific Advisory Panel
The Scientific Advisory Panel advises the MRA leadership team on scientific matters and policies of MRA including research needs and opportunities that may be targeted for funding and planning scientific symposia.
- Suzanne Topalian, M.D., Chair
- Jeff Allen
- James Allison, Ph.D.
- Boris Bastian, M.D.
- Gideon Bollag, Ph.D.
- Glenn Dranoff, M.D.
- Greg Friberg, M.D.
- Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D.
- Allan Halpern, M.D.
- Reid Huber, Ph.D.
- Nageatte Ibrahim, M.D.
- Jeffrey Legos, Ph.D.
- Richard Marais, Ph.D.
- Ira Mellman, Ph.D.
- Fouad Namouni, M.D.
- Neal Rosen, M.D.
- Steven Rosenberg, M.D.
- Michael Weber, Ph.D.
President & CEO
Friends of Cancer Research
Jeff Allen is President and CEO of Friends of Cancer Research (Friends). Friends is an advocacy organization based in Washington, DC that drives collaboration among partners from every healthcare sector to power advances in science, policy, and regulation that speed life-saving treatments to patients. During the past 20 years, Friends has been instrumental in the creation and implementation of policies ensuring patients receive the best treatments in the fastest and safest way possible.
Professor and Chair of Immunology
Executive Director, Immunotherapy Platform
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Director, Parker Institute for Cancer Research
James Allison has spent a distinguished career studying the regulation of T cell responses and developing strategies for cancer immunotherapy. Among his most notable discoveries are the determination of the T cell receptor structure and that CD28 is the major costimulatory molecule that allows full activation of naïve T cells and prevents anergy in T cell clones. His lab resolved a major controversy by demonstrating that CTLA-4 inhibits T-cell activation by opposing CD28-mediated costimulation and that blockade of CTLA-4 could enhance T cell responses, leading to tumor rejection in animal models. This finding paved the wave for the emerging field of immune checkpoint blockade therapy for cancer. Work in his lab led to the development of ipilimumab, an antibody to human CTLA-4 and the first immune checkpoint blockade therapy approved by the FDA. Dr. Allison is one of the world’s most renowned scientists. Among many honors, he is a member of the National Academies of Science and Medicine and received the Lasker-Debakey Clinical Medical Research award in 2015. His current work seeks to improve immune checkpoint blockade therapies currently used by our clinicians and identify new targets to unleash the immune system in order to eradicate cancer..
Professor of Dermatology and Pathology
Gerson and Barbara Bass Bakar Distinguished Professor in Cancer Research
University of California, San Francisco
Boris Bastian is a a dermatologist and dermatopathologistwith expertise in diagnosing and treating patients with cutaneous neoplasms. He has expertise in molecular cancer genetics and molecular pathology and leads a research laboratory at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Since 1997 Dr. Bastian's research has focused on the molecular pathogenesis of melanoma and revealed the existence of distinct disease subtypes that differ in their underlying genetic alterations, epidemiology, anatomic distribution, clinical and microscopic appearance, evolution from precursor lesions, role of UV radiation, and cell of origin. The Bastian Lab also has contributed to the discovery of oncogenic alterations such as mutations in KIT, GNAQ, GNA11, HRAS, and a whole panel of oncogenic fusion genes of various receptor tyrosine and threonine kinases in various melanocytic neoplasms. He has developed clinical tests to assist pathologists with the diagnosis of histologically ambiguous lesions, which have been adopted word-wide. He has proposed a two-dimensional taxonomy of melanocytic neoplasia that have been adopted as the framework for the revised WHO Classification of Skin Tumors. He founded and directs the Clinical Cancer Genomics Laboratory at UCSF, which performs genomic analyses of tumor samples of patients seen at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and has additional clinical responsibilities in the in the Dermatopathology Section of the Departments of Dermatology and Pathology.
Chief Executive Officer, Plexxikon, Inc.
Dr. Bollag has served as chief executive officer since May 2013, and has more than 23 years of biotechnology drug discovery experience. More recently, he was the senior vice president of research since June 2008. Prior, he served as vice president of discovery biology since November 2004. He joined Plexxikon as senior director of drug discovery in June 2002. Dr. Bollag was instrumental in the discovery and development of Zelboraf®, Plexxikon’s first oncology drug now approved in the U.S. and many other countries, along with its companion diagnostic. Prior to Plexxikon, he helped build drug discovery capabilities at Syrrx, Inc., where he was director of cellular pharmacology. Before Syrrx, he held escalating positions at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, initially as one of the founding scientists and eventually senior director of small molecule therapeutics. While there, Dr. Bollag was involved in the Onyx collaboration with Bayer to discover BAY 43-9006 (Nexavar), now an approved cancer treatment. Prior to Onyx, Dr. Bollag held various scientific positions at Cetus, Inc. Dr. Bollag earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.
Global Head of Immuno-Oncology
Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research
Dr. Dranoff has been instrumental in the development of several immunotherapies, most notably the vaccine G-VAX, which helps stimulate the immune system against tumors using irradiated cancer cells. In recognition of these and other accomplishments, Dr. Dranoff received the 2015 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology, the Eli Lilly Biochemistry Award in Gene Therapy, and was inducted into the American Association of Physicians. Now, his work focuses on developing effective combinations of immunotherapies, including vaccines and checkpoint inhibitors, and advancing the most promising strategies into clinical trials to benefit patients.
Dr. Dranoff also serves as an associate director of CRI’s Scientific Advisory Council, a member of the Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium (CIC) Steering Committee and was the founding editor-in-chief of the CRI/AACR journal Cancer Immunology Research.
Vice President & Therapeutic Area Head
Hematology/Oncology, Global Development
Greg received his A.B. degree in biochemistry from Middlebury College and M.D. from New York Medical College. He completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and his fellowship training in Hematology and Oncology at The University of Chicago Hospitals. As part of his training, he graduated from the University of Chicago Health Sciences Department Clinical Research Training Program specializing in clinical trial design and analysis. He joined the faculty of the University of Chicago thereafter joining the Phase I, Gastrointestinal, and Gynecologic oncology teams where he served as the PI for multiple early phase clinical studies. He published multiple research papers and reviews, and he was an active member of ASCO, the CALGB, and the GOG.
Greg joined Amgen in 2006 as an Associate Medical Director in Oncology Early Development. He served as the team lead for multiple early and mid-stage programs, shepherding molecules though IND filings, into initial human studies, and onto later development. Greg took over as group leader in 2011 and served for 3 years as Therapeutic Area Head, Oncology Early Development and later for 4 months as Early Development Head overseeing (Oncology, Inflammation, Neuroscience, and General Medicine/Bone). Starting in 2014, Greg served as the interim co-TA head for the Hematology / Oncology TA , overseeing XGEVA,™ trebananib, blinatumomab and talimogene laherpare pvec (TVEC). In 2016 he served as the Global Product General Manager (GPGM) for blinatumomab and the early hematology BiTE portfolio.
In 2017 Greg assumed the role of vice president and Therapeutic Area Head, Hematology / Oncology Global Development, overseeing XGEVA™, Kyprolis™, IMLYGIC®, BLINCYTO®, Nplate®, Neupogen® / Neulasta®, Aranesp®.
Sr. Vice President, Global Development & Medical Affairs, Lilly Oncology
Dr. Garraway is senior vice president of Global Development and Medical Affairs, for Eli Lilly and Company. Prior to joining Lilly, he was an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and a member of the Broad Institute. He was the inaugural director of the Center for Cancer Precision Medicine at Dana-Farber, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Broad Institute. Dr. Garraway has made seminal research contributions in cancer genomics, drug resistance, and cancer precision medicine. His advances have guided therapeutic and precision medicine initiatives at cancer centers worldwide. In 2015, Dr. Garraway was selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. In 2016, Dr. Garraway was named to former Vice President Biden’s Blue Ribbon Panel to develop recommendations for the Cancer Moonshot Initiative.
Chief, Dermatology Service
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Halpern is the Chief of the Dermatology Service and Co-Leader of the Melanoma Disease Management Team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Halpern's research has focused on melanoma prevention and early detection. His work has included studies of barriers and facilitators of skin cancer screening and skin self examination, the utilization of whole-body digital imaging for melanoma surveillance in high-risk individuals, the development of novel imaging modalities for early detection of skin cancer, and studies of the evolution of nevi (moles) in adolescence. Dr. Halpern has been active in public health efforts in skin cancer prevention and early detection. He has held leadership positions in the skin cancer prevention efforts of many organizations including the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology, and American Cancer Society. Dr. Halpern is co-Chairman of the National Council for Skin Cancer Prevention. Dr. Halpern is a Board Certified Internist and Dermatologist with a masters of science degree in clinical epidemiology.
Executive Vice President, Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Huber joined Incyte as a member of the founding scientific team in January 2002 when the company’s drug discovery activities were initiated. During his tenure at Incyte, Dr. Huber has held roles of increasing responsibility at across multiple therapeutic areas in both Drug Discovery and Clinical Development. As Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Huber has organizational and leadership responsibility for the company’s discovery research and translational science efforts. This team has brought forward 25 small and large molecules into clinical development over the past 14 years, including the JAK inhibitors ruxolitinib (Jakafi; approved for the treatment of patients with myelofibrosis or polycythemia vera) and baracitinib (under global regulatory review for the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis), capmatinib (in pivotal trials for patients with c-MET activating mutations), and epacadostat (a first-in-class inhibitor of IDO1 in pivotal trials with pembrolizumab for the treatment of first-line metastatic melanoma).
Before joining Incyte, Dr. Huber held scientific research positions at DuPont and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company from 1997 to 2002. Dr. Huber received his PhD in molecular genetics from the Washington University School of Medicine and held predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships at the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Huber also serves on the Board of Directors of Bellicum, a clinical-stage company focusing on the development of novel cellular immunotherapies for cancer and orphan inherited blood disorders.
Merck Research Laboratories, Oncology
Melanoma Program Development Team Chair
Nageatte Ibrahim, M.D., is a medical oncologist with a melanoma specialty focus and she is the melanoma program development team chair at Merck for Keytruda®. She oversees the clinical development program for Keytruda® in melanoma in the adjuvant and metastatic setting, which includes monotherapy as well as novel combinations with Keytruda®. At Merck, she was also the medical director for KEYNOTE-006, the pivotal phase III study of pembrolizumab vs. ipilimumab in ipilimumab-naïve metastatic melanoma patients, and lead the filing for the expanded indication for pembrolizumab in the first-line setting. Prior to Merck, Nageatte was a medical director at GSK in the melanoma program for dabrafenib and trametinib and worked on a pivotal phase III study to support the approval of both drugs in melanoma and she was actively involved in the phase I program working on combination therapies. Prior to her industry ventures, Nageatte was on the medical oncology faculty at the Harvard Cancer Center/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and practiced as a medical oncologist specializing in melanoma. She was also an active investigator on several clinical trials with immunotherapies and targeted therapies in melanoma. Her interest in melanoma began in fellowship at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA and she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital prior to her academic faculty appointment. Her post-doctoral research work focused on the understanding of the role of BRAF mutations in melanoma genesis as well as the role of p73/p63 in platinum-resistant ovarian and breast cancers. Nageatte brings to Merck her clinical expertise in the field of melanoma as well as her deep understanding of the critical pathways that lead to melanoma and an enthusiasm to develop more effective and tolerable treatments for cancer patients.
Senior Vice President, Global Program Head
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation
Jeffrey Legos, PhD, MBA, is Senior Vice President of Oncology Global Development and Medical Affairs at Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation. He leads large multinational teams across all functions of drug development overseeing clinical trials and translational research, including novel combinations and companion diagnostics. Prior to his current role, Dr Legos was the Vice President and Global Medicines Development Leader in Oncology at GlaxoSmithKline. Dr Legos holds a PhD in Physiology from Temple University School of Medicine and trained in Pharmaceutical Medicine in the Department of Neurosurgery at Temple University Hospital. He also holds an MBA in Finance from the Villanova University School of Business.
Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute
Dr. Marais received his BSc in Genetics and Microbiology at the University College, London and did his postdoctoral study in Comparative Studies on Protein Kinase C Isotypes at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. Dr. Marais is internationally known for his work on Raf protein regulation, which includes demonstrating that the B-Raf gene is mutated in approximately 70% of melanomas and at a lower frequency in many other cancers. His laboratory is coupling this to development of novel signal transduction inhibitors for use in treating human cancer. He also has a longstanding collaboration with Dr. Caroline Springer of the Institute of Cancer Research on gene therapy approaches to treat cancer.
Vice President of Cancer Immunology, Genentech
Ira Mellman came to Genentech in the Spring of 2007 as Vice President of Research Oncology, after more than 20 years as a faculty member at the Yale University School of Medicine, where he was chair of his department (Cell Biology), a member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, scientific director of the Yale Cancer Center, and Sterling Professor of Cell Biology and Immunobiology. Dr. Mellman has a BA from Oberlin College & Conservatory and a PhD in Genetics from Yale. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rockefeller University with Ralph Steinman. His laboratory is known not only for advances in fundamental cell biology particularly in the area of membrane traffic (including the discovery of endosomes) but also for applying these insights to understanding the cellular basis of the immune response. Ira ran all of oncology research at Genentech until the end of 2013 when he decided to concentrate his efforts on the rapidly developing area of cancer immunotherapy and became Vice President of Cancer Immunology. He remains a frustrated composer and songwriter, and has recorded two CDs of the little-known genre of “bio-rock."
Ira is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the European Molecular Biology Organization, and the former Editor in Chief of the Journal of Cell Biology. He has also served on the editorial boards of Cell, the Journal of Experimental Medicine, EMBO Journal, OncoImmunology among others, and is the recipient of many named lectureships, honorary professorships, and awards, most recently Yale University’s Wilbur Lucius Cross medal. He also serves on the boards of the Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer, President Obama’s Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel, the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Melanoma Research Foundation, and the Cancer Research Institute.
Senior Vice President and Head of Oncology Development
Enid A. Haupt Chair in Medical Oncology
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Rosen is a Member of the Department of Medicine and the Program in Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he serves as the Head of Developmental Therapeutics. He is also a Professor of Pharmacology, Cell Biology and Medicine at the Cornell University Medical School.
Dr. Rosen received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Columbia College and an M.D., Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and post-doctoral training and a fellowship in Medical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute. He was on the senior staff of the Medicine Branch at the U.S. National Cancer Institute prior to joining the faculty of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
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Chief, Surgery Branch
* National Cancer Institute
Dr. Rosenberg is Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and a Professor of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC. Dr. Rosenberg received his B.A. and M.D. degrees at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland and a Ph.D. in Biophysics at Harvard University. After completing his residency training in surgery in 1974 at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Rosenberg became the Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute, a position he has held to the present time.
Dr. Rosenberg has pioneered the development of immunotherapy that resulted in the first effective immunotherapies for selected patients with advanced cancer. He has also pioneered the development of gene therapy and was the first to successfully insert foreign genes into humans as treatment for cancer. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, is author of over 820 scientific articles.
* Dr. Rosenberg serves on the MRA Scientific Advisory Panel in his personal capacity.
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Professor, Surgery and Oncology, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Director, Melanoma Program, Kimmel Cancer Center
Associate Director, Bloomberg~Kimmel Inst. for Cancer Immunotherapy
Dr. Topalian received her medical degree from the Tufts University School of Medicine and completed a general surgery residency at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. She was a research fellow and subsequently a Senior Investigator in the National Cancer Institute, NIH. She joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2006 to direct the Melanoma Program in the Kimmel Cancer Center.
Dr. Topalian is a physician-scientist whose studies of human anti-tumor immunity have provided a foundation for the translational development of cancer vaccines, adoptive T cell transfer, and immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies. Her current research focuses on manipulating immune checkpoints such as PD-1 in cancer therapy, and discovering biomarkers predicting clinical outcomes. Dr. Topalian was named one of Nature’s 10 in 2014, and received the Karnofsky Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2015. Her work has opened new avenues of scientific investigation in cancer immunology and immunotherapy, and has established this modality as a treatment approach in oncology.
Director, Cancer Center, Weaver Professor of Oncology
University of Virginia
Dr. Michael J. Weber is the director emeritus of the University of Virginia Cancer Center, and professor of microbiology and the Weaver professor of oncology at the University of Virginia. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California San Diego in 1968, and was a postdoctoral fellow and American Cancer Society fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. He was on the faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign from 1971-1984, when he moved to the University of Virginia. He helped the University of Virginia obtain its first NCI-designated Cancer Center and co-founded the Cancer Cell Signaling Program, which has been the foundation for many subsequent investigations on cancer cell regulation and the discovery of therapeutic targets. Dr. Weber has been a major contributor to the discovery and analysis of the MAP Kinase pathway, which is a key driver of many malignancies, among the most prominent of which is melanoma. His research has focused over the past 10 years on understanding how signal transduction networks can best be used as a target for cancer therapy, with a focus on rational construction of combinatorial therapies. Dr. Weber has been among the top 1 percent most-cited authors in the areas of molecular biology and genetics; biology and biochemistry (Thomson Reuters). He has served on numerous NIH and foundation grant review panels and advisory boards, including the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Dr. Weber’s dedication to cancer research is not only professional, but personal: he is a member of a cancer family with BRCA2 mutations, and knows firsthand the importance of improving cancer outcomes by understanding basic cell and molecular biology and genetics.