​AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology Recipients

This award recognizes an active scientist whose outstanding and innovative research in cancer immunology has had a far-reaching impact on the cancer field.

Fifth Annual Award Recipient
Olivera (Olja) J. Finn, PhD
Distinguished Professor, Department of Immunology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Dr. Finn delivered her award lecture at the AACR Annual Meeting 2017 in Washington, D.C. The award lecture was held Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in the Washington Convention Center.

The AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology was established in honor of the late Lloyd J. Old, MD, who is considered the “Founding Father of Modern Tumor Immunology.” Dr. Old’s outstanding research in the field of cancer immunology, as well as his decades of leadership in fostering the field, have had a far-reaching impact on cancer. This award is intended to recognize an active cancer immunologist who, like Dr. Old, has done outstanding, innovative, and impactful research in cancer immunology.

Olivera J. Finn, PhD, is honored for groundbreaking research that in 1989 identified the first tumor-associated T-cell target on human adenocarcinomas, epithelial mucin MUC1. She is credited for the discovery of anti-MUC1 antibodies in cancers of the breast, pancreas, and colon, thereby demonstrating spontaneous immunity against a developing tumor. Dr. Finn and her team have also identified non-mutated cyclin B1 as a tumor antigen and published several papers on its excellent potential as a cancer vaccine. 
Dr. Finn’s impressive body of work has earned her a reputation as a true pioneer in her field. She was the first in 1993 to start testing in clinical trials a therapeutic cancer vaccine based on a non-mutated human tumor antigen and the first again in 2008 to start testing the same vaccine in a preventative setting. These studies are considered fundamental to the field of cancer vaccination, paving the way toward an entirely new paradigm of immunomodulation, immunosurveillance and cancer prevention.

Dr. Finn is University of Pittsburgh distinguished professor of immunology and surgery and founding chair of the Department of Immunology, the position she held from 2001 to 2013. She was program leader of the Cancer Immunology Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute from 1991 to 2014. After receiving her PhD in immunology at Stanford University in 1980, under the mentorship of Dr. Henry S. Kaplan, and completing her postdoctoral training there in 1982 under the mentorship of Dr. Ronald Levy, Dr. Finn moved to Duke University and in 1991 to the University of Pittsburgh. She gained prominence through her original focus on transplantation biology and later through her basic and applied research focused on tumor antigens and the development of cancer vaccines. 

Dr. Finn’s extensive track record of research accomplishments reported in over 170 peer-reviewed papers and numerous reviews and book chapters, co-authored by 25 PhD or MD/PhD students and over 60 fellows that she has trained to date. Her research has been funded by NCI continuously since 1984 and her current research is supported by the NCI Outstanding Investigator Award. She is on editorial boards of many cancer journals and advisory boards of many cancer centers and several companies. She has served on NCI study sections and the NCI Board of Councilors and the Council of the American Cancer Society. She has been a member of the American Association for Cancer Research since 1983 and is past chair of the Steering Committee of the AACR Cancer Immunology (CIMM) Working Group.

Award Recipients

  • 2017: Olivera J. Finn
  • 2016: Ronald Levy
  • 2015: Carl H. June
  • 2014: Robert D. Schreiber
  • 2013: James P. Allison