In This Section
Rakesh K. Jain, PhD

Rakesh K. Jain, PhD

Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts

Class of 2020

For landmark studies describing and highlighting the relationship between the tumor microenvironment and surrounding vasculature and for his investigations involving antiangiogenic therapy to induce tumor vascular normalization that have resulted in improved survival rates for a number of solid tumors.

For his pioneering efforts in identifying barriers created by the tumor microenvironment to the delivery and efficacy of anti-cancer medicines for conceiving and validating new principles to overcome these barriers; and for translating these principles from bench to bedside. His discoveries have fundamentally transformed our understanding of tumor biology and have directly informed the development and approval of new drug-combinations to treat cancer. His vast research into the characterization of the abnormal tumor vasculature has expertly described the harsh tumor microenvironment impacting the efficacy of immunotherapy. These dysfunctional vessels not only impair the delivery of immune cells to tumors, but also create an abnormal tumor microenvironment that thwarts their efficacy after they accrue in the tumor microenvironment. He then demonstrated that vascular normalization could increase the delivery of immune cells to tumors and convert them from “pro-tumor” to “anti-tumor” phenotype.  When combined with immunotherapy, these agents increased the survival of tumor-bearing mice. This seminal finding has been confirmed in multiple randomized phase III trials led by others and has resulted in FDA approvals of seven similar combinations of anti-VEGF drugs and immune-checkpoint blockers for patients with lung, liver, endometrial and kidney cancers since 2018. 

Dr. Jain’s seminal discoveries concerning vascular reorganization in the tumor microenvironment were groundbreaking at a time when many researchers were attempting to stifle the tumor by attacking the surrounding vasculature. In 2001, he proposed the groundbreaking concept that antiangiogenic drugs, originally designed to destroy blood vessels, could be used to “normalize” the tumor vessels, and improve delivery of oxygen, drugs and immune cells to tumors. He also proposed that various therapies given during the “window of normalization” would have a superior outcome. After providing unequivocal evidence in support of this hypothesis in animal models and elucidating the molecular mechanisms of vascular normalization, Jain and his clinical collaborators demonstrated that antiangiogenic agents can indeed normalize blood vessels of human tumors. And, crucially, the brain, lung, liver, and breast cancer patients survived longer when blood flow in their tumors increased due to vascular normalization. 

Selected Awards and Honors 

2018 Earl P. Benditt Award, North American Vascular Biology Organization, Germantown, Maryland 
2017 Elected Fellow, National Academy of Inventors, Tampa, Florida 
2017 Lifetime Achievement Award, American Association of Indian Scientists in Cancer Research 
2016 Lectureship, Princess Takamatsu Cancer Research Fund International, Tokyo, Japan 
2015 Elected Foreign Fellow, Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi, India 
2014 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC  
2014 AACR-Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship, American Association for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
2014 Fellow, National Foundation for Cancer Research, Rockville, Maryland 
2013 National Medal of Science, National Science Foundation, Washington, DC 
2012 Science of Oncology Award and Lecture, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Alexandria, Virginia 
2011 Rous-Whipple Award, American Society of Investigative Pathology, Rockville, Maryland 
2009 Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC 
2008 Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts 
2004 Elected Member, National Academy of Engineering, Washington, DC 
2003 Elected Member, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC