Martin A. “Mac” Cheever, MD, an internationally recognized pioneer in immunotherapy, died September 23, 2021, at the age of 77.
Cheever was born February 4, 1944. He earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan, then conducted his internship and residency at the University of Washington, where he would remain a professor throughout his career. He conducted a research fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, then joined the Fred Hutch faculty in 1976.
Shortly thereafter, Cheever and colleagues published papers showing that mice with leukemia could be cured by a transfer of white blood cells from another mouse that had developed an immune response to a grafted tumor. This principle was a forerunner of modern therapies such as CAR T-cell therapy. Over the course of his career, Cheever built upon that research, working to develop cellular therapies for patients with blood cancers and solid tumors.
In 1994, he cofounded Corixa Corp., a maker of therapeutic cancer vaccines that developed Bexxar, a radioimmunotherapy drug that secured approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of lymphoma. The company was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline, and Cheever returned to Fred Hutch.
In 2007, Cheever established the Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network, serving until recently as the network’s director and principal investigator. The network brings together leaders from 40 leading universities and cancer centers to coordinate and analyze clinical trials.
Cheever joined the AACR in 1979. He was an active member, attending many AACR Annual Meetings and speaking at the meeting in 2010, 2011, and 2013. He was also a frequent contributor to AACR journals, including Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. He was a member of the Cancer Immunology Working Group from 2008 to 2021 and a member of the CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology Committee from 2014 to 2015.
Among many career awards, Cheever was recognized with the first-ever Distinguished Service Award from the International Society for Biologic Therapy of Cancer in 2019. Along with his Fred Hutch colleagues, he had previously received a Lifetime Achievement Award for team science from the same organization.
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