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Skip Viragh Center for Pancreas Cancer

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Timeline of Discoveries

Decades of research in immunology pays off. Take a look at 25 years of cancer immunology discovery at The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.


Cancer immunology researchers Elizabeth Jaffee, Drew Pardoll and Hyam Levitsky develop GVAX, the first therapeutic cancer vaccine. This work led to the development of pancreatic, prostate, kidney, breast and other cancer vaccines.
Scientists discover the immune system-related molecules PD-L1 and PD-L2 on the surface of cancer cells. Known as immune checkpoints, they are found to partner with PD-1 to hide cancer cells from the immune system.
Jaffee, Daniel Laheru and team conducted the first clinical studies of a pioneering therapeutic pancreatic cancer vaccine.

Early results of GVAX are encouraging; it becomes one of the few new therapies to increase survival in some patients with pancreatic cancer.

Clinical trials of experimental drugs that target and interfere with the PD-1 molecule begin.
The Skip Viragh Center for Pancreas Cancer Clinical Research and Patient Care opens, accelerating pancreatic cancer immune therapy advances.
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center scientists lead an early clinical trial of the experimental checkpoint blockade-targeting drug MDX-1106, now known as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s nivolumab (Opdivo).
Science magazine calls cancer immunotherapy the Breakthrough of the Year and cites work by Kimmel Cancer Center scientists.
Jaffee, Lei Zheng, Eric Lutz, Laheru and their Skip Viragh Center team developed and tested a vaccine that triggered the growth of immune cell nodules within pancreatic tumors, essentially reprogramming these intractable cancers and potentially making them vulnerable to immune-based therapies.

Researchers test a combination of the GVAX vaccine with a second one that contains a modified version of the bacterium Listeria in 90 pancreatic cancer patients.
Viragh Scholar Dung Le leads a study of mistakes in so-called mismatch repair genes that accurately predict who will respond to certain immunotherapy drugs known as PD-1 inhibitors.
Mismatch repair biomarker receives FDA breakthrough status.

With leading funding from Michael Bloomberg and Sidney Kimmel, the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy is announced at Johns Hopkins. Vice President Joe Biden calls it a model for driving progress and the site of some of the next generation’s breakthroughs in cancer treatments.

Jaffee is named co-chair of the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel and chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board.