Dr. Urba receives award for his contributions to science and community

We are proud to announce that Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer, Providence Cancer Institute of Oregon, and director of cancer research, Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, has been given the Alvin J. Thompson Award by the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (NWABR) for his contributions to advancing the field of cancer research. Each year, NWABR presents two awards to honor the outstanding scientists and science advocates in our region. The awards were announced on Sept. 21 at the 2023 #ThanksResearch Gala.  

“In the tradition of prior Alvin J. Thompson awardees, which include past and possibly future Nobel laureates, Walter Urba is incredibly deserving of this prestigious recognition by virtue of his steadfast commitment to immunotherapy research, his transformational work on ipilimumab for the treatment of melanoma, and his leadership in building a world-class cancer center dedicated to translating next generation immunotherapies from the lab bench to the bedside. All of us who work in the field stand on his shoulders,” said R. Bryan Bell, M.D., D.D.S., FACS, FRCS(Ed), division director of Surgical Oncology, Radiation Oncology and Clinical Programs for Providence Cancer Institute.  

Leading research and Providence Cancer Institute 

Dr. Urba is a pioneer and key figure in the development of immunotherapy as the fourth pillar of cancer treatment. While at the National Cancer Institute in the 1980s, he was part of the team that standardized IL-2 dosing and was an integral part of the Cytokine Working Group.  

In 1993, Dr. Urba joined Providence to establish a cancer program and lead translational research in Oregon. Additionally, as a principal investigator Dr. Urba has helped advance the development of biological agents, including monoclonal antibodies, cytokines, vaccines and adoptive cellular therapy. Most notably, Dr. Urba led the global clinical trial of ipilimumab, the first checkpoint immunotherapy approved for the treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma, ushering in the new era of immuno-oncology.                               

In his award acceptance speech, Dr. Urba emphasized that advancements in science and medicine are not individual achievements. “Research is a team sport,” he said, thanking his family, teachers, mentors, colleagues and patients.  Dr. Urba also thanked the Northwest Association of Biomedical Research for increasing public understanding, support and participation in research.  

Watch Dr. Urba’s acceptance speech. 

“Dr. Walter Urba is a visionary who trusted in science, and who developed, led and supported early phase bench-to-bedside clinical trials that were supplemented with cutting-edge technologies to monitor the immune system,” said Bernie A. Fox, Ph.D., member, Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, and Harder Family Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, Molecular and Tumor Immunology Laboratory. “This approach separated Dr. Urba from all but a handful of far-sighted leaders and provided a foundation for the establishment of an internationally recognized center of excellence in cancer immunotherapy at Earle A. Chiles Research Institute."

Learn more about Providence Cancer Institute and Earle A. Chiles Research Institute.  

Learn more about Northwest Association for Biomedical Research.

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