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Gordon J. Freeman, PhD, FAACR, Recognized with 2024 AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology

PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will award Gordon J. Freeman, PhD, FAACR, with the 2024 AACR-Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology during the AACR Annual Meeting 2024 to be held April 5-10 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.

Freeman is a professor of medicine in the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. He is being recognized for his groundbreaking contributions to the discovery of the T-cell programmed death-1 receptor (PD-1) signaling pathway and the PD-1 ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2; for spotlighting the involvement of this pathway in tumor evasion of immunosurveillance; and for demonstrating that blocking this pathway can provoke an antitumor immune response. His extraordinary work has led to the development of immunotherapies for cancer, autoimmune diseases, and transplant rejection.

The AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology recognizes active scientists whose outstanding and innovative research has had a major impact on the cancer field and has the potential to stimulate new directions in cancer immunology. Since 2013, this prestigious award has served to celebrate the world’s leading cancer immunologists and inspire others to investigate the role of the immune system in cancer onset and progression.

After demonstrating that PD-L1/2 engagement with PD-1 inhibits immune activity, Freeman observed that PD-L1/2 are commonly overexpressed in a variety of solid tumor cells, leading him to hypothesize that these proteins may allow cancers to evade antitumor immune responses. In a groundbreaking discovery, Freeman showed that antibody-mediated blockade of PD-1 and PD-L1/2 binding is sufficient to stimulate immune activity. These findings ultimately led to clinical testing of immunotherapies that block PD-1 and PD-L1/2 signaling and have resulted in the development of therapies targeting this pathway that have since been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for more than 25 different cancers.

Subsequent research by Freeman and colleagues has provided further insights into T-cell biology, T-cell exhaustion, and tumor evasion of immune responses including the discovery of various costimulatory pathways. Further, Freeman identified human endogenous retrovirus-H long terminal repeat-associating 2 (HHLA2) as another key mediator of immune evasion, resulting in ongoing clinical investigations dedicated to developing anti-HHLA2 antibodies for the treatment of cancer.

More recently, Freeman has investigated how the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway may be exploited to overcome microbiome-associated immunosuppression of anti-tumor responses, as well as how alternative interactions between B7-1 and PD-L1 may be targeted for autoimmunity. Collectively, Freeman’s paramount contributions to immunotherapy continue to fuel investigations into T-cell biology and the development of novel therapeutics that target the immune system.

“Dr. Freeman is an internationally celebrated scientist whose highly innovative research has greatly enhanced our understanding of the immune system and helped revolutionize the field of cancer immunotherapy,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His enormously impactful contributions have led to significant treatment breakthroughs for countless cancer patients. We are delighted to recognize him with this award.”

“We are thrilled to recognize Dr. Gordon J. Freeman with the AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award for his groundbreaking contributions to the field of cancer immunology. Dr. Freeman’s work on PD-L1 and PD-L2 has not only deepened our understanding of immune regulation but has also paved the way for transformative cancer immunotherapies,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs at CRI. “Dr. Freeman’s research exemplifies Lloyd Old’s prescient vision, honors Lloyd’s legacy, and embodies CRI’s mission to save more lives by driving the discovery and advancement of potent immunotherapies for all cancer types.”

Freeman has been a member of the AACR since 2014, was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2019, and serves as an editorial board member of the AACR journal Cancer Immunology Research.

He has received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including the Edward J. Sarcione Excellence in Immunology Award (2023), Immunology in United States Leader Award (2023), James D. Griffin, MD Medical Oncology Team Science Award (2020), Richard V. Smalley, MD Memorial Award and Lectureship (2020), Advanced Discovery Award, The Kidney Cancer Association (2019), Medical Oncology Discovery Award (2018), Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (2017), Thomson Reuters and Clarivate Analytics Citation Laureate in Medicine (2016), Cancer Research Institute William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology (2014), Laguna Biotech CEO Forum Award (2014), Lymphoma Hub Award (2014), Institute of Scientific Information Highly Cited Researcher in Immunology (2002-2022), American Cancer Society Fellowship (1982), and Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Fellowship (1980). Freeman is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (2022) and elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2022), Academy of Immuno-Oncology (2021), and National Academy of Inventors (2020).

Freeman earned his undergraduate degree in biochemistry and molecular biology and a doctorate in microbiology and molecular genetics from Harvard University. He completed postdoctoral fellowships with Harvey Cantor and Lee M. Nadler at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute prior to establishing his own laboratory.

Freeman’s award lecture will be presented on Monday, April 8, at 5 p.m. PT.

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