AACR CEO Margaret Foti Honored by the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer

Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research, has been honored with the 2021 Tara Withington Public Service Award from the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).     

The award “honors an individual or group that has made substantial contributions to fostering and enhancing the field of cancer immunotherapy through increasing public understanding and awareness, research efforts, and/or funding for cancer immunotherapy,” according to SITC. Withington has been SITC’s executive director for more than 20 years.

“I am deeply honored to receive this very special recognition from SITC, the organization that has championed immunotherapy as one of the effective pillars of cancer care,” Foti said in remarks delivered at SITC’s 36th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. “Different forms of immunotherapy have had extraordinary success against several types of cancer. Thus, the AACR is very proud to support the continued development of this powerful new treatment modality for saving lives from cancer.”     

Foti SITC award
From left, Leisha A. Emens, MD, PhD, SITC vice president; Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc); and Tara Withington, SITC executive director.

In her remarks, Foti reflected upon the remarkable progress that has occurred since the first immune checkpoint inhibitor—ipilimumab (Yervoy)—was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011. Today, there are eight FDA-approved immune checkpoint inhibitors, with many more in development. Immunotherapeutics are now approved for 18 different cancer types and any type of solid tumor characterized by certain molecular characteristics.

While immunotherapy is redefining the modern age of cancer treatment, Foti reminded the SITC attendees that its roots date back to the early 20th century.

“One of the AACR’s 11 founding members in 1907, and yes, we are about to celebrate our 115th anniversary, was William B. Coley, who as you well know is viewed as the ‘Father of Immunotherapy,’” Foti said. Coley developed the theory that the immune system could be stimulated to fight and ultimately shrink tumors. This principle helped lay ground for countless other cancer researchers, including many AACR members, to develop the therapeutics that are now in widespread use.  

“Our founders would be in absolute awe if they were able to personally experience the spectacular advances that are now being made in immunology and immunotherapy by you, the brilliant basic and clinical researchers in this field,” Foti told SITC attendees.

In recent years, the AACR and SITC have collaborated on initiatives such as a Congressional briefing that emphasized the progress in immuno-oncology to members of Congress and a joint workshop to review immune-related adverse events following checkpoint immunotherapy. Foti said she welcomes further opportunities to work with SITC to continue advancing the field of immunotherapy.

“I am very proud and honored to be recognized with this Public Service Award in Tara’s name,” Foti continued. “It is a great privilege for me to utilize my role at AACR to advocate for more progress in cancer immunotherapy on behalf of millions of cancer patients worldwide!” 

Cancer Research Catalyst extends hearty congratulations to Dr. Foti for receiving this recognition. To hear her full remarks, see the following video.