News & Publications

Immune Response Linked to 'Cancer Miracles' Says Forbes Magazine Cover Story

NEW YORK, NY – February 11, 2009 – Sharon Belvin, the stage IV metastatic melanoma survivor given only months to live who then recovered completely after treatment with an immune modulator called anti-CTLA-4, is featured on the cover of the March 2, 2009, issue of Forbes magazine. Her story is told in a feature article penned by author Robert Langreth titled, "Cancer Miracles: Why Do Some People Beat the Odds?" In the article, Langreth shares the stories of several cancer patients diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, late-stage melanoma, and metastatic breast cancer, and how treatment with immunotherapies pulled them back from the brink of death. Such recoveries, Langreth writes, though atypical, offer crucial clues to fighting cancer. The story offers a compelling case for the hope of cancer immunotherapy and the necessity to continue pressing forward with out efforts to understand the immune system and its relationship to cancer.

The article reads as a veritable Who's Who of Cancer Research Institute investigators, biotech and pharmaceutical partners, and clinical trial patients, including among others:

  • Sharon Belvin, the featured melanoma patient, whose story of remarkable recovery CRI featured in its 2006 annual report; at CRI's 2007 annual awards dinner, Sharon spoke before the gathered attendees, sharing her gripping story of how she came so close to death only to be pulled back after being treated with the immune-modulator, anti-CTLA-4, which works by blocking the immune system's regulatory, or braking, mechanisms.
  • Jedd Wolchok, Sharon's treating physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who administered the anti-CTLA-4, is a CRI Scientific Advisory Council member, a member of the CRI/LICR Cancer Vaccine Collaborative Coordinating Committee, and a CRI-supported clinical investigator who has lectured at CRI symposia and other educational events
  • James Allison, though not specifically mentioned in the article, discovered the CTLA-4 receptor and worked with Medarex and Bristol-Myers Squibb to develop the anti-CTLA-4 antibody therapy that saved Sharon's life. He has also been instrumental in brokering an agreement between the CRI/LICR Cancer Vaccine Collaborative and Bristol-Myers Squibb that provides anti-CTLA-4 to Collaborative researchers for use in their cancer vaccine clinical trials.
  • William Coley, the Father of Cancer Immunotherapy who launched the first clinical studies of cancer immunotherapy in the late 1800s; his daughter, Helen Coley Nauts, founded the Cancer Research Institute.
  • Robert Schreiber, an immunologist at Washington University School of Medicine, whose work on cancer equilibrium and the "Three Es of Cancer Immuno-Editing" was featured in CRI's 2008 annual report, is an associate director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council and a CRI-funded investigator and predoctoral tumor immunology training program head.

Editorial commentary from CRI
CRI executive director Jill O'Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., sent a response to the editors of Forbes (read it here) to show not only how intricately linked the Cancer Research Institute is to these 'cancer miracles' that are coming from the field of tumor immunology, but also to encourage journalists covering this topic to remember the nonprofit health research funding organizations like CRI who play a crucial role in making these research advances possible.


Media Contact
Brian Brewer, Director of Communications
Cancer Research Institute
(212) 688-7515 or bbrewer@cancerresearch.org

About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world’s only nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to transforming cancer patient care by advancing scientific efforts to develop new and effective immune system-based strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and eventually cure all cancers. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes three Nobel laureates and 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested $263 million in support of research conducted by immunologists and tumor immunologists at the world’s leading medical centers and universities, and has contributed to many of the key scientific advances that demonstrate the potential for immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment. To learn more, go to www.cancerresearch.org