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Lloyd Old

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 07 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1437
  1. Ned Stafford, freelance journalist
  1. 1Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Brought tumour immunology into the mainstream

Lloyd Old was only 24 years old when he scribbled three questions on a piece of paper. It was 1958, and fresh out of medical school he had taken a position at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where he would spend his whole career. The questions were simple, but profound: Is there an immune reaction to cancer? If there is, what are the targets? How can you stimulate that immunity?

During the next half century Old would determinedly work to answer the questions, laying the foundation for the specialty of tumour immunology and contributing to seminal discoveries that now are being used for development of therapeutic cancer vaccines and other targeted immunotherapies for cancer.

Tumour immunology

“He about singlehandedly transformed over time tumour immunology from an almost alchemy-like fringe discipline into a now scientifically highly respected mainstream discipline, ultimately resulting in the clinical successes we now begin to see,” said Gerd Ritter, associate director at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research New York Branch, where Old had served as scientific director and chief executive officer.

Douglas Fearon, immunologist at the University of Cambridge, described Old as a “committed investigator …

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