A longtime leader in immunology
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has an impressive history of important discoveries about the immune system, laying the groundwork for today’s promising developments in immunotherapy for cancer and other diseases. Former Dana-Farber President Baruj Benacerraf shared a Nobel Prize in 1980 for discovering genes that regulate the immune system’s response to foreign antigens, and he recruited many young scientists who would become leaders in immunology. During the 1980s and 1990s, Dana-Farber investigators made a series of discoveries that increased understanding of the immune system and the roles of different types of specialized T cells. Research using monoclonal antibodies contributed to the development of Rituxan, a monoclonal antibody that became a mainstay of treatment for lymphoma. More recently, Dana-Farber scientists discovered proteins known as PD-1 and PD-L1 that cancer cells use to escape attack by the immune system. Currently, antibodies that block PD-1 and boost the immune defenses are showing great promise as treatments for melanoma and other cancers. Dana-Farber physician-scientists are leaders of clinical trials that have shown the effectiveness of Provenge, a vaccine for treating prostate cancer, and ipilimumab, a monoclonal antibody that is helping some patients with advanced melanoma survive for as long as 10 years.