The Sentinel

THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF THE SOCIETY FOR IMMUNOTHERAPY OF CANCER (SITC).

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

President's Message - February 2019

Dear Colleagues,

As I enter my second month as President of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), I am energized in our society’s efforts to continue our growth and success into this new year. As we set the stage for the future, I wanted to offer a brief history of SITC for those new to the society, to acknowledge and celebrate our past, all made possible by a dedicated (and growing) family of SITC members.

SITC was originally founded in 1984 by 40 charter members as the Society for Biological Therapy (SBT). At the time, enthusiasm for cancer immunotherapy was driven by investigations of early cancer vaccines, interferons, interleukin-2 and other types of immune modulators. Fundamental discoveries in molecular biology and immunology over the ensuing years provided the foundation for advances in cancer immunobiology, and consequently ushered in the modern era of cancer immunotherapy, which includes transforming therapies such as the immune checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T cells. Members of our Society were key drivers of many of these advances, in the lab and the clinic, and through critical roles within industry and government.

I attended my first meeting of the society, then SBT, in approximately 1989, and witnessed the rapid advances in understanding the nature of host anti-tumor immunity over the next decade. Based on a growing body of exciting preclinical data, many agents were brought to clinical trials by dedicated researchers, although with limited clinical success. Nevertheless, members of our society remained steadfast in their efforts to develop highly effective cancer immunotherapies. During the SBT 2002 business meeting, members voted to officially change our name to the International Society for Biological Therapy of Cancer (iSBTc). This change was enacted so that our name would reflect our emphasis and concentration on cancer while embracing and valuing our expanding member footprint across the globe. We experienced further change in 2010 when members voted to refresh the name to the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, a moniker that captures our focus and expertise.

The field as a whole, and our society more specifically, has come a long way in the past 35 years. Immunotherapy is not only a viable alternative to other treatments, but now in many malignancies, the most important component of treatment for cancer patients. Improved patient response rates and overall outcomes have undoubtedly played a substantial role in our society’s growth and prosperity, particularly in the past seven years. Since 2012, SITC membership has grown more than 300 percent, from 601 members to 2,457 in 2018.



The diversity of our membership has grown over the years and our society adjusted to reflect the change in composition, adding categories of nurses, pharmacists and patient advocates in recent years. In total, SITC maintains eight member categories for professional and personal classification purposes:

  • Regular
  • Affiliate
  • Emeritus
  • Nurse and Advanced Practice Provider
  • Patient
  • Patient Advocate
  • Pharmacist
  • Student and Scientist-in-Training


Historically and to this day, our regular member category is our most popular, growing to more than 1,600 professionals in the field in 2018, including basic and translational scientists and practicing oncologists. I find it interesting that while the number of regular members has increased by nearly 450 in the past three years, the category’s representation within the overall SITC membership body has actually declined by three percent since 2016. All other member categories – save emeritus, which has remained steady, comprising 18 members – have increased during the same timeframe, suggesting our reach and effect on the greater cancer community continues to grow. It is clear, though, that once a regular member joins SITC, they find a home in our society, as our retention rate among this category is a staggering 88 percent.

While we know that access to discounted registration rates at SITC programs remains a valued member benefit, our members repeatedly tell us that the ultimate rewards of a SITC membership are the indispensable professional relationships built through society involvement. These relationships expand professional networks and set the stage for meaningful collaborations that spark the next advances in the field, all with the same goal of improving patient outcomes.

I appreciate each and every one of our society’s members, many who have already renewed their memberships for the balance of 2019. Continue reading this month’s Immune Monitor to learn more about the value of a SITC membership. If you’re not currently a member, I encourage you to consider becoming a part of the SITC family.

Sincerely,















Mario Sznol, MD
SITC President