MD Anderson’s Katy Rezvani, M.D., receives 2023 Honorific Award from the American Society of Hematology

Rezvani honored for pioneering contributions to develop novel cell therapies for cancer

Katy Rezvani, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Stem Cell Transplantation & Cellular Therapy at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has been honored with the E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize from the American Society of Hematology (ASH) for her groundbreaking research to develop and advance innovative cell therapies for cancer using natural killer (NK) cells.

“I am fortunate to be able to engage in research that I am passionate about, to mentor incredible young scientists, and to collaborate with a remarkable team of researchers and clinicians. But most importantly, I am blessed to have the opportunity to undertake research that has the potential to impact positively on the lives of people with cancer,” Rezvani said. “I am truly honored and grateful to my peers and colleagues at ASH for this distinguished recognition.”

The E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize is named after the late Nobel laureate and past ASH president, E. Donnall Thomas, M.D. The prize is one of seven Honorific Awards presented this year by ASH, and it recognizes pioneering research achievements in the field that have led to a significant discovery or paradigm shift. Rezvani will be honored during a ceremony at the 2023 ASH Annual Meeting.

As a physician-scientist with a global reputation in tumor immunology and immunotherapy, Rezvani’s research seeks to harness the potential of cell therapies, particularly chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) NK cells engineered for enhanced cancer cell recognition and elimination. Since joining MD Anderson in 2012, her lab has remained at the forefront of this research, specializing in novel strategies utilizing genetically modified NK cells isolated from umbilical cord blood.

These investigational therapies have yielded promising results in early trials, including strong responses in the first clinical trial evaluating CD19-targeting CAR NK cells for patients with advanced leukemia and lymphoma. Rezvani’s lab continues to innovate CAR NK cell therapies, improving their effectiveness against hematologic and solid tumors, and employing innovative approaches such as CRISPR gene editing to enhance the potency of NK cells. Additionally, they are developing T cell receptor (TCR) NK cell therapies to target intracellular antigens. Her work has fostered multiple strategic collaborations between MD Anderson and leading biopharmaceutical companies.

“Katy’s commitment to exploring new pathways to treating cancer with CAR NK cell therapy is a perfect example of how we are advancing breakthroughs to drive meaningful progress in our mission to end cancer,” said Giulio Draetta, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientific officer at MD Anderson. “We applaud her exceptional science and her dedication to identifying novel treatment strategies, and we applaud her for this well-deserved recognition.”

Rezvani received her M.D. from University College in London and her Ph.D. in Transplant Immunology from Imperial College. She completed her clinical hem-oncology and BMT fellowships at the Hammersmith Hospital in London. Her postdoctoral and senior research fellowships were completed at the National Institutes of Health. To date, she has published more than 250 original peer-reviewed journal manuscripts and has received more than two dozen awards in recognition of her clinical, mentorship and research achievements.

Rezvani has been a member of ASH since 2006. She currently serves as the chair of the ASH subcommittee on Emerging Gene and Cell therapies and is a member of ASH’s Immunotherapy Taskforce, Committee on Government Affairs and Committee on Scientific Affairs.