Dr. Paul Sondel of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center has been awarded the top prize in the field of cancer immunology.

Headshot of Paul Sondel
Paul Sondel

The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) announced that Sondel, a pediatric oncologist, has received the group’s top award for decades of work in developing immunotherapies for childhood cancers, especially neuroblastoma.

“This award is well-deserved for Dr. Sondel’s outstanding career, which has seen great improvement in outcomes for children with cancer,’’ says Dr. Howard Bailey, director of the UW Carbone Cancer Center. “Through his work in the lab and clinical trials, Dr. Sondel has helped usher in new treatments that are saving the lives of children everywhere."

Sondel’s research has emphasized the translation of laboratory innovations into clinical progress. His laboratory has pursued the biology of graft-versus-leukemia reactions, activation of antitumor immune destruction with Interleukin-2 and the use of tumor reactive monoclonal antibodies and immunocytokines to facilitate tumor killing by leukocytes. He has published more than 370 scientific articles and chapters, and many of these studies have moved into clinical testing.

“Dr. Sondel has been a tireless champion of investigating immunotherapy approaches to combat pediatric cancers. He has followed the science and been a leader in clinical trials, testing many promising therapies. His collaborative work helped lead to the ultimate FDA approval of dinutuximab, which was a critical advance in this challenging childhood cancer,” stated SITC President, Dr. Lisa H. Butterfield.

As part of the award, Dr. Sondel will present the 2017 Richard V. Smalley, MD Memorial Lecture at the SITC 32nd Annual Meeting in National Harbor, Maryland. Bailey noted that the award’s namesake and SITC founding board member, Dr. Smalley, was also a member of the UW Carbone faculty from 1984 to 1991, prior to starting his own cancer clinical trials management company.

Sondel, the Reed and Carolee Walker professor of pediatric oncology, grew up in Milwaukee and earned undergraduate and doctoral degrees in genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with guidance from bone marrow transplant pioneer, Dr. Fritz Bach. He received his medical degree magna cum laude in 1977 from Harvard Medical School, while beginning his research in tumor immunology. Following pediatric residencies at the universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin, he joined the Wisconsin faculty in 1980 in the departments of pediatrics, human oncology and genetics.

Sondel has led scientific policy through multiple national roles at the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Children's Oncology Group (COG), the National Cancer Institute, where he was a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors, and St. Jude's Children’s Research Hospital, where he chaired the Scientific Advisory Committee and the external advisory board.