Cancer immunologist Andrea Schietinger, PhD, of the Sloan Kettering Institute (SKI) at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) has been honored with the prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award. Dr. Schietinger was selected as a winner for her groundbreaking work in immune responses to cancer, molecular mechanisms underlying tumor-induced T cell dysfunction, and new approaches for cancer immunotherapy. A total of 55 New Innovator Awards were given out by the NIH this year.
Established in 2007, the New Innovator Awards support unusually innovative research from early career investigators who are within ten years of their final degree or clinical residency and who have not yet received a research project grant or equivalent NIH grant. In 2017, the NIH High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, part of the NIH Common Fund, funded 86 awards to exceptionally creative scientists proposing to use highly innovative approaches to tackle major challenges in biomedical research.
Dr. Schietinger’s laboratory investigates the regulatory mechanisms underlying tumor-specific CD8 T cell dysfunction in the context of solid tumors. Cancer cells express mutated proteins that are distinct from the proteins in normal cells. These are known as tumor-specific antigens. More than a century ago, scientists reasoned that our immune system should be able to recognize these mutated proteins as foreign and eliminate cancer cells. However, although tumor-specific T cells are found within human tumors, they are not functional and allow cancers to grow unimpeded.
“It’s an incredible honor to receive the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award,” said Dr. Schietinger. “The proposal put forward a conceptual new framework to explain tumor-specific T cell dysfunction and to design novel strategies to reprogram T cells for cancer immunotherapy. This award will allow my lab to do the innovative, high-risk, high-reward research needed to harness the power of our immune system to fight cancer.”
“I am delighted that Dr. Schietinger is a 2017 New Innovator Award winner,” said SKI Director Joan Massagué, PhD. “She is an exemplary scientist and I know that she will further her groundbreaking contributions in this very new area of research.”
“I continually point to this program as an example of the creative and revolutionary research NIH supports,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “The quality of the investigators and the impact their research has on the biomedical field is extraordinary.”
Dr. Schietinger is a basic scientist and tumor immunologist. She received her graduate training at the University of Chicago in the laboratory of Hans Schreiber where she investigated the genetic creation and biochemical structures of tumor-specific glycopeptidic neoantigens. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, in Phil Greenberg’s lab, she studied mechanisms underlying peripheral self-tolerance. Since January 2015, Dr. Schietinger has been an assistant member in the Immunology Program at MSK and is a member of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK.
NIH Grant Number: DP2-CA-225212.