The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) partnered to cosponsor a one-year NCI fellowship to train physicians who have completed their medical oncology fellowship and are seeking specialized training in cancer immunotherapy, focusing on clinical trials and clinical trial development.
The purpose of the cancer immunotherapy fellowship is to train the next generation of physicians to develop and conduct immunotherapy clinical trials. The breadth and depth of opportunities for training in clinical immunotherapy at the NCI Center for Cancer Research (CCR) are unsurpassed, with active programs in therapeutic cancer vaccines, immune checkpoint modulation, adoptive cellular therapies, and antibody-based immunotherapies. NCI designed the fellowship program, including the rotations/tracks and didactic opportunities for the fellows, reviewed the fellowship applications, selected the recipients, and managed administrative tasks and the training.
SITC, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with more than 1700 members serves patients, clinicians, and researchers by fostering education and the scientific exchange of cancer immunotherapy information. While SITC sponsors other fellowships, those fellowships are awarded to individuals who will continue to work at their existing institution during the fellowship period. The NCI fellowship is unique in that candidates are recruited to relocate to NCI for a year of specialized training in cancer immunotherapy.
SITC’s role in the partnership has been to promote and advertise the fellowship and to educate the fellow through the SITC annual meeting, which may include the fellow participating in pre-conference training on tumor immunology and cancer immunotherapy. After completing the fellowship, fellows present their work and experiences at the SITC annual meeting.
One of the major challenges to making this immunotherapy fellowship a reality was identifying funding. While NCI CCR leadership was in favor of the fellowship, no NCI funding was available to pay the fellowship participants. NCI ultimately determined that the only viable funding route was to use a Cooperative Research and Development (CRADA) to direct funds to the fellowship. NCI discussed this fellowship proposal with some of its CRADA partners that are developing cancer immunotherapies, and one such partner, EMD Serono, was interested in supporting the fellowship.
NCI plans to use this approach moving forward so that other interested CRADA partners can direct CRADA funds to support the fellowship. To date, two fellows have successfully completed the NCI Immunotherapy Fellowship funded by EMD Serono, and both transitioned into roles where they can make a positive impact in the field of cancer immunotherapy.
Contact: Dr. James Gulley, (301) 480-7164, [email protected]