NIH immunotherapy pioneer Steven Rosenberg awarded nation’s highest honor for technology and innovation

Oct. 25, 2023
The National Medal of Technology and Innovation recognizes outstanding contributions to America’s economic, environmental, and social well-being.

Immunotherapy pioneer Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., has been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Biden. Dr. Rosenberg is chief of the Surgery Branch at the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Rosenberg will receive his medal from President Biden at a White House ceremony on October 24, 2023. The distinguished oncologist is among nine individuals and a team of three receiving the award this year.

Dr. Rosenberg helped pioneer the development of immunotherapy, a form of treatment that helps a person’s own immune system fight cancer. He identified the anti-cancer properties of a hormone, interleukin-2, that became one of the first cancer immunotherapies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

He was of the first to identify immune cells with cancer-fighting properties, called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, or TILs. He developed a form of treatment known as adoptive cell transfer (ACT) immunotherapy, in which TILs are extracted from a tumor, grown to large numbers in the lab, and then administered back to a patient as a “living drug” to shrink their tumors. ACT is now being developed by hundreds of academic and industrial centers to treat people with cancer.

Dr. Rosenberg was of the first to introduce foreign genes into patients, a development that opened the field of human gene therapy, now being widely studied for many diseases. He was one of the first to use genetically engineered immune cells, known as CAR T cells, to treat patients with aggressive lymphomas.

In recent work, a clinical trial that Dr. Rosenberg is leading on the use of TILs to selectively target cancer cells led to complete and partial shrinkage of tumors in women with metastatic breast cancer. He is also using TILs to develop personalized cancer immunotherapies for patients whose cancers do not respond to standard treatments.

NIH release