Department of Medicine
Faculty Profiles by Division

Department of Medicine

Faculty Profiles

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photo John M. Kirkwood, MD


Usher Professor of Medicine, Dermatology & Translational Science

Distinguished Professor

Co-Leader, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program


Phone: 412-623-7707

Office: UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
5117 Centre Avenue, Suite 1.32c
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone: 412-623-7707
Fax: 412-623-7704
Administrative Assistant:
Lisa Huntley
Address: UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
5117 Centre Avenue, Suite 1.32
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone: 412-623-7707
Fax: 412-623-7704
Education and Training
Biochemistry, Oberlin College, 1969
Immunology, Memorial Sloan Kettering, 1969
MD, Yale University, 1973
Pathology, Yale University, 1973
Intern, Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital, 1974
Resident, Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital, 1976
Postdoctoral-Fellowship, Harvard University, 1978
Research Interest
Dr. Kirkwood’s research focuses upon melanoma immunobiology, therapy and prevention. His translational laboratory studies have established the first adjuvant therapy of melanoma, and shown the immunological basis of this therapy are now probing the role of molecularly targeted agents (BRAF, MEK, and PI3Kdelta inhibitors) that may improve upon the efficacy of anti-PD1 immunotherapy, both for treatment of advanced melanoma and for the adjuvant therapy of operable high-risk melanoma. He has advanced the multimodal therapy of melanoma with surgery, stereotactic radiotherapy, and molecular antitumor agents that have displaced chemotherapy in the management of melanoma. He is now pioneering novel clinical trials to assess the myriad potential combinations of 11 recently-approved molecular and immunological therapies that are anticipated to be the focus of the next decade of translational clinical research trials in melanoma.

His laboratory is engaged in the molecular and immunohistological analysis of melanoma, and studies of tissues obtained from institutional, regional, national, and international trials of new therapy. Tumor tissues from patients participating in new modalities and combination therapies, neoadjuvant trials, and prevention interventions are probed using current immunopathological and molecular approaches for assessment of signaling pathways, and immune responses to melanoma.
Clinical Interest
Dr. Kirkwood has studied the immunobiology and therapy of melanoma and other skin cancers, in studies of advanced and high risk disease. His work led to the FDA approval of the first adjuvant therapy for melanoma (IFN alfa, 1995) and also has included the most recent combination adjuvant therapy of melanoma (dabrafenib/trametinib, approved in 2018). His studies have been pursued locally in the Melanoma Program of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, regionally in the Melanoma Consortium of 8 tri-state institutions, and the National Cooperative Group ECOG-ACRIN where he has chaired the Melanoma Committee for 30 years. Globally, he has led the International Melanoma Working Group he founded in 2005, where new and more efficient adaptive trial designs are being introduced to accelerate regulatory approval of new therapies and combinations. Both at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and in the US National Cooperative Group, biomarker discovery has been an emphasis in neoadjuvant trials that have probed the mechanism of action of IFN, PD1 with IFN and newer agents that may modulate the tumor microenvironment. In the national Clinical Trials Network ECOG-ACRIN the first neoadjuvant trials of new BRAF/MEK inhibitors, and combinations of anti-PD1 and other immunomodulators (toll like receptor agonist), are now planned with blood and tissue biomarker corollaries. In patients with earlier primary melanoma, Dr. Kirkwood is leading efforts to improve early detection and therapeutic prevention of melanoma using nutritional agents such as sulforaphane that alter tumor progression from atypical/dysplastic nevus precursors with minimal toxicity.
Educational Interest
Dr. Kirkwood has trained more than 200 fellows, many of whom are now leaders of melanoma investigation across the US and in Europe. He has held an Oncology Training Grant and more recently holds a Melanoma and Skin Biology T32 training grant. He has published more than 400 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, ASCO, SITC, and multiple editorial boards of the leading journals in the field of medical oncology, cutaneous oncology and immunotherapy.
For my complete bibliography, Click Here.
Selected Publications:
Ferris LK, Saul MI, Lin Y, Ding F, Weinstock MA, Geller AC, Yuan JM, Neuren E, Maddukuri S, Solano FX, Kirkwood JM. A Large Skin Cancer Screening Quality Initiative: Description and First-Year Outcomes. Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Oncology. 2017; 3(8): 1112-1115.
Kashani-Sabet M, Nosrati M, Miller JR 3rd, Sagebiel RW, Leong SPL, Lesniak A, Tong S, Lee SJ, Kirkwood JM. Prospective Validation of Molecular Prognostic Markers in Cutaneous Melanoma: A Correlative Analysis of E1690. Clinical Cancer Research. 2017; 23(22: 6888-6892.
Dreno, B., Thompson, J.F., Smithers, B.M., Satinami, M., Joary, T., Gutzmer, R., Levchenko, E., Rutkowski, P., Grob. J.J., Korovin, S,, Drucis, K., Grange, F., Machet, L., Hersey, P., Krajsova, I., Testori, A., Conry, R., Guillot, B., Kruit, W.H.J., Kirkwood, J.M. MAGE-A3 immunotherapeutic as adjuvant therapy for patients with resected, MAGE-A3-positive, stage III melanoma (DERMA): a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trial. Lancet Oncology. 2018; 19(7): 916-29.
Butterfield, L.H., Vujanovic, L., Santos, P.M., Maurer, D.M., Gambotto, A., Lohr J, Li, C., Waldman, J., Chandran, U., Lin, Y., Lin, H., Tawbi, H.A., Tarhini, A.A., Kirkwood, J.M. Multiple antigen-engineered DC vaccines with or without IFNalpha to promote antitumor immunity in melanoma. Journal for Immunotherapy for Cancer. 2019; 7(1): 113.
Tarhini, A.A., Lee, S.J., Li, X., Rao ,U.N.M., Nagarajan, A., Albertin,i M.R., Mitchell, JW, J.R., Wong, S.J., Taylor ,M.A., Laudi, N., Truong, P.V., Conry, R.M., Kirkwood,J.M. E3611-A Randomized Phase II Study of Ipilimumab at 3 or 10 mg/kg Alone or in Combination with High-Dose Interferon-alpha2b in Advanced Melanoma. Clinical Cancer Research. 2019; 25(2): 524-32.
Najjar ,Y.G., Puligandla, M., Lee,S.J., Kirkwood, J.M. An updated analysis of 4 randomized ECOG trials of high-dose interferon in the adjuvant treatment of melanoma. Cancer. 2019; 125(17): 3013-3024.
Gershenwald JE, Scolyer RA, Hess KR, Sondak VK, Long GV, Ross MI, Lazar AJ, Faries MB, Kirkwood JM, McArthur GA, Haydu LE, Eggermont AMM, Flaherty KT, Balch CM, Thompson JF, for members of the American Joint Committee on Cancer Melanoma Expert Panel, International Melanoma Database and Discovery Platform. Melanoma staging: Evidence-based changes in the American Joint Committee on Cancer eighth edition cancer staging manual. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2017; 67(6): 472-492.
Najjar, YG., Menk, A.V., Sander, C., Rao, U., Karunamurthy, A., Bhatia, R., Zhai, S., Kirkwood ,J.M., Delgoffe ,G.M. Tumor cell oxidative metabolism as a barrier to PD-1 blockade immunotherapy in melanoma. Journal of Clinical Immunotherapy Insight. 2019; 4(5).
Long, G.V., Hauschild, A., Santinami, M., Atkinson, V., Mandala, M., Chiarion-Sileni, V., Larkin, J., Nyakas, M., Dutriaux, C., Haydon, A., Robert, C., Mortier, L., Schachter, J., Schadendorf, D., Lesimple, T., Plummer, R., Ji, R., Zhang,, Mookerjee, B, Kirkwood, J.M. Adjuvant Dabrafenib plus Trametinib in Stage III BRAF-Mutated Melanoma. New England Journal of Medicine. 2017; 377(19): 1813-1823.
Seynnaeve, B., Lee, Ss, Borah, S., Park, Y., Pappo, A., Kirkwood, J.M., Bahrami, A. Genetic and Epigenetic Alterations of TERT Are Associated with Inferior Outcome in Adolescent and Young Adult Patients with Melanoma. Scientific Reports. 2017; 7: 45704.
Notable Achievements
Roodman Award for Fellow Mentorship, 2019
Giants of Cancer Care Award, 2017
American Skin Association Award, Leader in Melanoma Research, Treatment and Prevention, 2016
Member, NIH Grant Review Study Section, P50, 2016-2017
Elsie Hillman Distinguished Scholar Award, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, 2015
Member, Association of American Physicians, 2015-Present
Merrill J. Egorin MD Excellence in Scientific Leadership Award, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, 2013
Bridge Award for Lifetime Scientific Accomplishment Award, Naples-USA Committee, Naples, Italy, 2013
Chair, International Melanoma Working Group, 2005-Present
Member, Study Section, Harry J Lloyd Trust, 2003-Present