Memorial Sloan Kettering Immunologist Lloyd J. Old Dies at 78

Pictured: Lloyd Old

Cancer immunologist Lloyd Old

In November, Memorial Sloan Kettering lost Lloyd J. Old, a pioneer in the field of tumor immunology who had been at the Center for more than 50 years. Dr. Old’s groundbreaking research enabled the design and development of antibodies and vaccines targeted to tumor cells — two types of therapy that are becoming increasingly important parts of cancer treatment.

Beginning in the 1960s, he made seminal discoveries about the immune system and how it is able to detect and kill cancer cells. Among his discoveries were cell-surface markers, which enable the immune system to identify cancer cells, and tumor necrosis factor, a regulator of the immune system that plays a role in many diseases, including cancer, when mutated.

“Lloyd was a true scientific pioneer, who vigorously championed the idea that the immune system could be harnessed to attack cancer cells,” says Sloan Kettering Institute Director Thomas J. Kelly. “He made numerous discoveries that fundamentally changed our view of the interactions of the immune system with cancers and provided a rich training environment for young investigators.  There is no doubt that the field of cancer immunology would not be where it is today without Lloyd Old.”

Dr. Old’s vision and leadership brought basic and clinical investigators together across institutional and international borders to take tumor immunology from animal models into clinical research and the development of promising new cancer therapies.

Dr. Old joined Memorial Sloan Kettering in 1958, served as associate director of research from 1973 to 1983, and was named to the William E. Snee Chair in Cancer Immunology in 1983. In June 2011 he received the C. Chester Stock Award from Memorial Sloan Kettering. He also served for 17 years as Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and for 30 years as Scientific Director of the Cancer Research Institute.