Dr. John M. Kirkwood received his medical degree from Yale University in 1973 and completed his postgraduate work at Yale–New Haven Hospital and Harvard University/Dana-Farber Cancer Center, Boston, in 1978. He directed the Yale Melanoma Unit (1978–1985) and was the founding Associate Director for Medical Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), where he was Chief of Medical Oncology (1986–1996) and Vice Chairman for Clinical Research in the Department of Medicine (1996–2006). Dr. Kirkwood has directed the Melanoma Center of the UPCI (1986–present) and is the principal investigator of the University of Pittsburgh in the ECOG-ACRIN National Cooperative Group. He has chaired the Melanoma Committee of the ECOG-ACRIN since 1989 and the International Melanoma Working Group since 2004. He holds the Sandra and Thomas Usher Endowed Chair in Melanoma at the UPCI, where he is Professor of Medicine, Dermatology, and Translational Science.
Dr. Kirkwood’s research focuses on melanoma immune-biology, therapy, and prevention. He developed the first FDA-approved immunotherapy for melanoma (1996) and has led immunotherapy development in cancer for the past 45 years, beginning decades before immunotherapy had reached the limelight it has achieved in melanoma and other solid tumors over the past 5 years. He has advanced the multimodal therapy of melanoma with surgery, stereotactic radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and molecular antitumor agents, and is now pioneering new combinations of the 10 recently approved new immunotherapies and molecular therapies that are anticipated to be the focus of the next decade of clinical translational research.
Dr. Kirkwood has advanced new and more efficient trial designs to accelerate regulatory approval of new therapies and combinations. In the International Melanoma Working Group these trials for metastatic disease propose to utilize adaptive design, intermediate endpoints, and a global collaboration among the leading academic institutions and pharmaceutical firms with melanoma advocacy. and regulatory authorities to accelerate the assessment of new agents and combinations. In the US National Cooperative Groups, the national trials he has led have used factorial design and prospective blood and tissue biomarker corollaries to establish and confirm the first effective adjuvant therapy for melanoma. In patients with operable high-risk melanoma, his institutional and regional consortium adjuvant studies have pioneered neoadjuvant trial designs that have illuminated the mechanism of the interferons, checkpoint inhibitors, and multiple combinations that are anticipated to further improve clinical outcomes for operable high-risk melanoma. He is leading efforts to improve early detection and chemoprevention with nutritional agents in patients with earlier primary melanoma that may prevent disease progression from atypical/dysplastic nevus precursors with minimal or no toxicity.
Dr. Kirkwood has trained more than 200 fellows, many of whom are now leaders of melanoma investigation across the United States and in Europe. He has published more than 365 original peer-reviewed articles and 175 reviews, editorials, and chapters. He was elected to the Association of American Physicians in 2014 and is a member of AACR, ASC, SITC, and multiple editorial boards of the leading journals in the field of medical oncology, cutaneous oncology, and immunotherapy.