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Ton Schumacher, PhD, FAACR, to Receive 2021 AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology

PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will recognize Ton Schumacher, PhD, FAACR, with the 2021 AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology during Week 1 of the virtual AACR Annual Meeting 2021, April 10-15.

Schumacher is a senior faculty member in the Department of Molecular Oncology and Immunology in the Oncode Institute at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, and professor of immunotechnology at the Leiden University Medical Center.

Schumacher is being honored for his groundbreaking contributions to illuminating how the human immune system recognizes cancer cells and how such recognition may be strengthened for therapeutic purposes. He is also being recognized for developing innovative new technologies by which to examine tumor-specific immune responses and harness this knowledge to develop more effective cancer immunotherapies.

The AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology recognizes an active scientist whose outstanding and innovative research has made a major impact on the cancer field and has the potential to stimulate new directions in cancer immunology.

Schumacher is an internationally acclaimed scientist whose discoveries have advanced fundamental immunology research as well as cancer medicine. His early research focused on developing new methods to determine which fragments of tumor antigens bind to MHC molecules that are subsequently recognized by T cells, thereby activating targeted immune responses. Recognizing the translational potential of this early work, Schumacher next laid the groundwork to genetically transfer specific T-cell receptors (TCRs) onto T cells to better direct the immune response toward a pathogen or tumor. His group was the first to successfully conduct in vivo proof-of-principle TCR gene therapy in mice. This discovery led to the first clinical trial of TCR gene therapy in patients with skin cancer. Schumacher’s subsequent research has since focused on overcoming potentially dangerous safety barriers related to TCR gene therapy, developing methods to identify the best TCRs for directing T cells to tumors, and identifying healthy donors as a potential source of TCRs to be directed against cancer cells.

In addition to his TCR research, Schumacher has developed technologies that measure the immune response to patient-specific tumor neoantigens and has explored the concept of cellular barcoding to reveal the behavior of single immune cells. Moreover, Schumacher and colleagues have demonstrated that T-cell responses to neoantigens can be enhanced by immune checkpoint blockade, which has since translated into additional efforts by researchers to develop personalized cancer vaccines.

“Dr. Schumacher is a trailblazer in the advancement of immune-based therapies and has greatly furthered our understanding of T cells as a vital tool to fight cancer,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “By conducting this important research, he has broadened the scope of immunotherapies and their application for cancer patients. It is our great honor to present this award to Dr. Schumacher to celebrate his illustrious career.”

“Dr. Schumacher’s body of work has made a profound impact on the field of tumor immunology, both advancing scientific understanding of the fundamental mechanisms involved in T cell recognition of cancer as well as pioneering technologies that forge new pathways to personalized medicine in treating cancer patients, potentially improving outcomes and saving more lives,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, CEO and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute.

Schumacher has been a member of the AACR since 2014 and was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy this year. He previously served on the AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology Committee (2014-2017). Schumacher has also served as a scientific advisory board member for numerous scientific organizations in Europe and the United States. He is a Fellow of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences (2014) and a member of the Academia Europaea (2017), Oncode Institute (2017), and European Molecular Biology Organization (2010).

Schumacher has received a multitude of scientific honors, including the Simon Stevin Award (2020), the ISI Highly Cited Researcher (2019), the European Research Council Advanced Grant (2017 and 2011), the Peter Speiser Award (2016), the van Loghem Award (2016), the William B. Coley Award (2016), the Meyenburg Cancer Research Award (2015), the San Salvatore Foundation Award (2014), the Queen Wilhelmina Award (2014), the Amsterdam Inventor Award (2010), and the Pioneer Award (2000).

Schumacher earned his master’s in medical biology in 1988 at the University of Amsterdam and his PhD in biochemistry in 1992 at the Free University of Amsterdam. Over the course of his career, he has contributed to nearly 250 peer-reviewed publications. Schumacher’s award lecture will be available for on-demand viewing through the virtual AACR Annual Meeting 2021 platform beginning on April 9, 2021.