Mac Cheever, MD

Mac Cheever, MD

Professor of Medicine/Oncology
University of Washington

Specialty / Expertise

  • Medical Oncology
  • Immunotherapy

Research Interests

  • cancer immunotherapy clinical trials

Current Research Projects

Dr Cheever is a Member of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), a Professor of Medicine and Director of the NCI-funded Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network (CITN). Dr. Cheever, amongst other, predicts that within the next 10 years immunotherapy will provide the backbone for the majority of cancer therapy. The Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium is poised to continue to lead the way.  The development of cancer immunotherapy is both exciting and challenging. The development and testing of new immunotherapies to treat the common cancers is a pressing national and global need. Our team at FHCRC and UW is increasingly expert and accomplished in evaluating and developing the promise of new cancer immunotherapies beginning with preclinical work, early stage clinical trials and pivotal trials. The efforts of the group are contributing substantially to hasten the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry’s development of cancer immunotherapy agents, drugs and therapy regimens. There’s enormous potential here.

His own research expertise is in cancer immune therapy and cancer vaccine development. From 1987 to 1997 he served a Professor of Medicine UW and Member FHCRC with a major focus on developing the principles of T cell therapy, cancer antigen discovery and development of cancer vaccines, especially for breast cancer. In 1994, he co-founded a biotech company, Corixa Corporation, in order to develop cancer vaccines as therapeutic products. He served as Vice President of Clinical Research and Medical Affairs from 1997 to 2005. In this capacity, he gained extensive experience with: design and initiation of cancer vaccine trials; cancer antigen discovery and cancer vaccine development in collaboration with major pharmaceutical corporations as well as FDA related product approval issues.

Dr Cheever is currently the Principal Investigator for the NCI-funded Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network (CITN). The CITN has established a productive network of leading investigators from 29 foremost cancer centers and universities in North America to implement, design and conduct novel biologically dictated early phase trials using agents and combinations to demonstrate proof-of-concept essential to proceed to Phase III pivotal trials, and provide high quality immunogenicity and biomarker data that elucidates mechanisms of response. The CITN provides an organized effort to conduct early phase trials with a focus on trials likely to achieve the optimal/quickest route to (1) Proof of Concept, (2) Demonstration of patient benefit and (3) Regulatory approval.

The CITN strategy is to develop highly informative trials not otherwise possible, by combining (1) the best peer-reviewed concepts, with submissions open to everyone in the field, (2) optimal trial design by multidisciplinary Concept Working Groups overseen by the CITN Executive and Steering Committees; and (3) priority agents not generally available. The agents designated for the initial focus of CITN trials were prioritized in the NCI-sponsored workshops (in fact, the formation of the CITN largely evolved from the findings of these workshops [2-4]). Categories of interest (with agents in parentheses) include dendritic cell activators (anti-CD40), dendritic cell growth factors (Flt3-L), T-cell stimulators (anti-CD137, anti-GITR, anti-OX40, LIGHT), T-cell growth factors (IL-15, IL-7), vaccine adjuvants (IL-12, CpG, MPL, Poly ICLC, Resiquimod), T-cell attracting chemokines (CCL21), inhibitors of T-cell checkpoint blockade (anti-PD1, anti-PD-L1, anti–B7-H4, anti-LAG3), and inhibitors of immune- and cancer-cell–induced immune-suppression (anti-TGFß, anti-IL10, IDO inhibitors).

Toward the goal of having many priority immunotherapy agents with proven biologic function broadly available for cancer therapy, the CITN strategy focuses on (1) collaborative trials likely to achieve the optimal or quickest route to (a) proof of concept, (b) demonstrating patient benefit, and (c) regulatory approval; and (2) agents and formulations likely to achieve broad availability through commercialization. With this strategy, the CITN has been able to gain access to the top-ranked priority agents heretofore not available to the broad community—which is a major first and essential step.

CITN References

1. Cheever MA. Twelve immunotherapy drugs that could cure cancers. Immunol Rev. 2008;222:357-368.

2. Cheever MA, Creekmore SP. Immunotherapy Agent Workshop, July 12, 2007.
. Accessed April 4, 2012

3. Cheever MA, Allison, JP, Ferris, AS, Finn OJ, Hastings, BM, Hecht, TT, Mellman I, Prindiville SA, Steinman, Viner JL, Weiner LM, Matrisian LM. The prioritization of cancer antigens: A National Cancer Institute pilot project for the acceleration of translational research. Clin Cancer Res. 2009;15(17):5323-5337.

4. Cheever MA, Matrisian LM. Report of the Immune Response Modifier Pathway Prioritization Working Group (IRMP WG), November 2009.
. Accessed April 4, 2012

5. CITN website:

Dr. Mac Cheever, Director of the Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network, says his team is testing what he believes will become the dominant form of cancer therapy.

Related News

Mac Cheever, MD

Contact Information

(206) 667-4141
(206) 667-6366
Additional contact

Mailstop: E3-300

Administrative Assistant
Brooke Gibson
Phone: (206) 667-1156
Fax: (206) 667-6366