Not immune to praise: Thomas Gajewski named “Giant Of Cancer Care”

Thomas Gajewski

Every year, publisher OncLive® recognizes medical leaders whose achievements in cancer research and care advance the science of oncology. This year, we're proud to announce that our own Thomas F. Gajewski, MD, PhD has been named one of twelve “Giants of Cancer Care for 2017.”

Gajewski, a professor of medicine and pathology, is the fourth University of Chicago Medicine physician to win this honor since it began in 2013. Previous winners were Drs. Samuel Hellman, Janet Rowley (posthumously), and Everett Vokes.

Gajewski has long been an authority on immunotherapy. His team of cancer specialists 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.

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 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're 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 (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 on this breakthrough is now 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 “Giant of Cancer Care” finalists are selected by an elite, five-member advisory board of world-renowned cancer surgeons and researchers. 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.

OncLive® provides up-to-date information to oncology professionals through their publications OncologyLive®, Oncology Nursing News® and Oncology Business Management®.

Thomas F. Gajewski, MD, PhD

Thomas F. Gajewski, MD, PhD

Thomas Gajewski, MD, PhD, investigates and develops new treatments for patients with melanoma. He also leads development of immune-based therapies for other cancers, using new laboratory data on how the immune system is regulated to develop novel clinical trials.

Read Dr. Gajewski's physician profile
John Easton
John Easton

John Easton is a senior science writer at UChicago Medicine.