On October 7, 2014, the Cancer Research Institute held its 28th Annual Awards Dinner at Guastavino’s in New York City, where the Institute honored exemplary individuals whose scientific and public contributions have helped advance cancer research and treatment. More than 310 guests attended the event at the historical landmark with cavernous high ceilings and modern decor, situated right underneath the Queensboro Bridge. Themed “A World of Possibilities,” the dinner celebrated what many have thought impossible: the recent successes in the discovery and development of immunotherapies that have led to durable, cure-like remissions of advance cancers. More than $800,000 was raised for the Institute, enabling future breakthroughs in immune-based medicine for more patients.
James P. Allison, Ph.D., director CRI’s Scientific Advisory Council, presented the first award—the Institute’s highest scientific honor, the 2014 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research. Four scientists were recognized for their collective contributions to the discovery of the PD-1 receptor pathway, a new immune system checkpoint that has been shown in clinical studies to be a highly promising target in cancer immunotherapy. Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D., Lieping Chen, M.D., Ph.D., Arlene Sharpe, M.D., Ph.D., and Gordon Freeman, Ph.D., join more than 80 other scientists to have received this prestigious award since 1975.
The Cancer Research Institute also presented a scientific award to a former CRI postdoctoral fellow in recognition of outstanding success for research that may have a potentially major impact on immunology. The 2014 Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology was awarded to Iannis Aifantis, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Pathology at the NYU School of Medicine. A former CRI fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and later a CRI Investigator at the University of Chicago, Dr. Aifantis and his laboratory currently focus on the subtle molecular signaling events that shape how blood stem cells mature into a variety of cells in the immune system. He is also studying how some of the cells can become dangerous, causing acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
CRI’s 2014 Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research honors the dedicated contributions of individuals and companies who have had a significant impact on cancer research. This year, the award was presented to two recipients: Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), for leading scientific advances and research in the field of immuno-oncology, and CRI trustee Jacques C. Nordeman.
Murdo Gordon, president, U.S., of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, accepted the award on behalf of BMS. In his remarks, he honored the hard work of all the employees at BMS who have contributed to the success of the company’s immuno-oncology program. Gordon also praised CRI for its many years of dedication to the field of immuno-oncology, and called special attention to the more than two decades of partnership between CRI and BMS to advance cancer immunotherapy research.
Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, CRI chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs presented the second Oliver R. Grace Award to Jacques C. Nordeman, chairman of Nordeman Grimm, Inc., and CRI trustee for more than three decades. Upon receiving his award, Mr. Nordeman, who personally raised $300,000 for the dinner, took to the stage and played the drums to the song “When You’re Smiling” with the Charlie Decker’s Hudson River Jazz Band.
After the awards were bestowed, mentalist and mind reader Gerard Senehi entertained the guests. In line with the theme of the dinner, “A World of Possibilities,” Mr. Senehi wowed the audience with the seemingly impossible right in front of their eyes, giving them an extraordinary experience and a sense of open possibilities ahead.
Co-chairs and presenters at the event were Dr. James P. Allison, Steven A. Denning, John B. Fitzgibbons, G.S. Beckwith Gilbert, Donald J. Gogel, Dr. Joseph Leveque, Dr. Ellen Puré, Paul C. Shiverick, and Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey. Willie Geist, co-host, Third Hour NBC’s “Today”, and co-host, MSNBC’s “Morning Show,” served as master of ceremonies.
Photos from the event are can be seen here.
All images copyright by Cancer Research Institute.
Photography credit: Patrick McMullan.