Thomas F. Gajewski, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Chicago, has been named one of 12 “Giants of Cancer Care for 2017” by OncLive®, an organization that offers oncology professionals information they can use in patient care through their publications OncologyLive®, Oncology Nursing News® and Oncology Business Management® and through videos.
Gajewski is the fourth University of Chicago physician to win this honor since it began in 2013. Previous winners were Drs. Samuel Hellman, Janet Rowley (posthumously), and Everett Vokes.
Gajewski is an authority on immunotherapy. His team studies new ways to overcome a tumor’s ability to resist immune-based therapies, with a focus on drugs that help the immune system, especially T cells, gain access to tumor sites.
They are also looking at connections between the gut microbiota—the microbes that live in a patient’s digestive tract—and the immune system’s response to cancer. In 2015, Gajewski’s laboratory showed that a particular strain of bacteria in the digestive tracts of mice could stimulate the immune system to attack tumor cells. They are now refining this approach and analyzing a large cohort of human samples.
His laboratory has also pioneered the study of a protein complex known as STING—short for STimulator of INterferon Genes—which plays a crucial role in detecting cells in which the DNA is misplaced, within the cell but outside the nucleus. In 2014, Gajewski’s laboratory showed how the STING pathway signals the body’s innate immune system to attack such tumor cells. Clinical testing is underway.
Earlier this year, Gajewski received an Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health. The award supports scientists who demonstrate remarkable productivity in cancer research and guarantees substantial funding for seven years.
Gajewski is also an editor for Cancer Research and the Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer and past president of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer. He has served on program committees for the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association of Cancer Research.
Nominated by the oncology community, all finalists are selected by an elite five-member advisory board of world-renowned oncologists. The finalists in each category are then voted on by a 90-plus member selection committee comprising the nation’s “leading physicians in the oncology space.” The winners represent 12 categories: breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, genitourinary cancer, hematologic malignancies, lung cancer, melanoma, radiation oncology, scientific advances/drug development, pediatric oncology, supportive/palliative/geriatric care, immuno-oncology and surgical oncology.