Richard J. O’Reilly, MD, Named The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Inaugural Prize Winner for Groundbreaking Contributions in Pediatric Oncology

New York, NY,

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) has announced that Richard J. O’Reilly, MD, has been named the inaugural recipient of The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Prize. This new award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field of pediatric oncology.

Dr. O’Reilly, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Director of the Bone Marrow Transplantation Program at MSK, has been a thought leader in pediatric cancer care for his four-decade career. Among his many accomplishments, he pioneered the development of curative marrow transplantation approaches for patients who lack HLA-matched siblings and dramatically expanded treatment options for all patients.  

A committee of prominent members of MSK’s leadership including President and CEO Craig Thompson, MD, Physician-in-Chief José Baselga, MD, PhD, and Sloan Kettering Institute Director Joan Massagué, PhD, chose Dr. O’Reilly for this first prize. He will be recognized at The Society’s Spring Ball and officially awarded the prize at MSK’s academic convocation ceremony in May.

“The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Prize recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to improving the understanding, diagnosis, and/or treatment of childhood cancer,” said Dr. Thompson. “For nearly 50 years, Richard O’Reilly has built an influential body of work that has advanced pediatric oncology, and I am very pleased to announce that he is the inaugural recipient of this important prize.” 

Recognizing Those Who Make a Difference

The new global prize will be awarded annually to a researcher, physician, or team leader who has made a positive and lasting impact in the fight against pediatric cancer. Founded in 1946, The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering is a volunteer-led organization within MSK dedicated to promoting the well-being of patients, supporting cancer research, and providing education on the early prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer.

“The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering is deeply gratified that Dr. O’Reilly has been named the inaugural recipient of this prize,” said Society President Lavinia Branca Snyder.  “As The Society reflects on how far we have come since our founding 70 years ago, our focus is on where we go from here. We search for solutions by empowering MSK with The Society Prize, a tool to recognize and highlight important breakthroughs.”  

About the Recipient

Dr. O’Reilly and his colleagues introduced the use of matched unrelated donors for bone marrow transplants and T cell depleted transplants from HLA half-matched donors — groundbreaking advances in treatment. This provided patients afflicted with lethal immune deficiencies and leukemia a normal blood system without the risk of graft-versus-host disease. His laboratory is currently exploring the potential of adoptive cell therapies employing immune cells grown in vitro to treat or prevent infections and recurrence of leukemia following transplantation.


Dr. O’Reilly received his medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in in 1968. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston and specialty training in infectious disease at the Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He initiated the marrow transplant program at MSK in 1974 and was appointed Director and Chief of the Transplant Program in Pediatrics in 1976. From 1976 until 2004 he was also Chief of the Allogeneic Marrow Transplantation Service in the Department of Medicine. He has served as Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics since 1986. Dr. O’Reilly is the incumbent of the Claire L. Tow Chair in Pediatric Oncology Research.

He has received numerous honors including the Lila Acheson Wallace Chair of Pediatric Research, the Louise and Allston Boyer-Young Investigator Award for Clinical Research, the Vincent Astor Chair of Clinical Research, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from MSK, the Herman Boerhaave Medal from the University of Leiden, the McGovern Award of the Houston Academy of Medicine, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, the Pediatric Oncology Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Bob Pinedo Cancer Care Prize of the Society for Translational Oncology and the Castle Connolly Lifetime Achievement Award,.

“I am very honored to be recognized as the inaugural recipient of this award,” said Dr. O’Reilly. “To have the satisfaction of knowing that your work has contributed to the lives of children and their families is impossible to put into words. I am grateful to The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering for their unwavering support and partnership. This global award heightens awareness of the field of pediatric oncology and, in particular, the enormous contributions made in our efforts to control and cure childhood cancers.”

The Society and MSK’s Department of Pediatrics

The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has a longstanding commitment to MSK’s Department of Pediatrics. The group has been an ardent supporter of the MSK Pediatric Day Hospital, one of the first in the United States, since it was introduced in 1968.

The Society is dedicated to supporting the needs of the Department of Pediatrics by providing support for research initiatives as well as programs and events for patients, and by supporting the MSK Department of Social Work in aiding pediatric patients and their families.

Journalists may contact the Department of Public Affairs for more information.

Telephone: 212-639-3573