The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars. Established by an Act of Congress, signed into existence by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the NAS is charged with providing independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation, conduct other activities to solve complex problems, and inform public policy decisions. Over the years, nearly 500 members of the NAS have won Nobel Prizes. The NAS membership totals approximately 2,250 US members and nearly 440 foreign associate members. This is an elite group of scientists, by any measure. There is no application process, members are elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that any scientist can receive.

I and The Oral Cancer Foundation are proud to announce that Dr. Maura Gillison, an OCF science board member and recipient of OCF donor funding over more than a decade and a half, has been elected into the prestigious NAS. Those that follow OCF already know that in our world of oral and oropharyngeal cancers, Dr. Gillison after her breakthrough work elucidating the role of HPV16 and oropharyngeal cancers in 1999, for the next decade was clearly the most prolific scientist in peer reviewed work and publications that elucidated the many ideas that allowed us to understand the virus and this cancer in detail. From transmission mechanisms, defining the population that gets this disease, onco-protein expressions that allow the virus to take over cells and turn them malignant, the survival advantage associated with this over historic causes of the disease, to understanding why men are affected 4-1 over women, we owe Dr. Gillison and those partnered with her for that information.

More recently, Dr. Gillison was at the forefront of immunotherapeutics in head and neck cancers, and her research work related to immune checkpoint inhibitors that resulted in the drug nivolumab, marketed as Optivo entering the real world of patient treatment. OCF donors were part of that breakthrough and OCF is mentioned in a press release related to this which you can read here (…/ ) from the American Academy of Clinical Research. Immunotherapeutics is likely the future of cancer treatments as more of them become available to the clinical world after finishing trials. Dr. Gillison is already working on the next ideas in this exciting area of research. OCF will keep our followers and supporters informed as our donors continue to support her work, and as the only non-doctor in the group, I am privileged to sit on the National Cancer Institute Oversight Committee on Immunotherapies and Head and Neck Cancers with Dr. Gillison and others.

I am extremely proud of Dr. Gillison, who has become a good friend and mentor to me, and OCF is fortunate to have her as our partner in the battle against oral and other head and neck cancers.