Department of Medicine
Faculty Profiles by Division

Division of Hematology/Oncology

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 studies established the first effective adjuvant therapy of melanoma, and identified the immunological basis of this therapy, and are now probing the role of molecularly targeted agents (BRAF, MEK, and PI3Kdelta/gamma inhibitors) that may improve upon the efficacy of anti-PD1 immunotherapy, both in advanced melanoma and in the adjuvant therapy of operable high-risk melanoma. He has advanced the multimodal therapy of melanoma with surgery, stereotactic radiotherapy, and molecular antitumor agents, displacing chemotherapy in the management of melanoma. He is now pioneering novel clinical trials to assess the myriad potential combinations of recently-approved molecular (6) and immunological (6) therapies that are anticipated to be the focus of translational clinical research trials in melanoma for the next decade.

His laboratory is engaged in the molecular and immunohistological analysis of melanoma, and studies of tissues obtained from local 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 assessments of signaling pathways, and immune responses to melanoma.
Clinical Interest
Dr. Kirkwood has studied the immunobiology of melanoma in studies first in advanced, and then in high-risk disease. His work led to the FDA & worldwide regulatory approval of the first adjuvant therapy for melanoma (IFN alfa, 1995) and have also included the most recent adjuvant therapy of stage III melanoma (dabrafenib/trametinib, approved 2018). He has led trials that bring new agents into the therapy of earlier (stage II) disease .His studies span the Melanoma Program of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center locally and the Melanoma Consortium of 10 tri-state institutions he formed in 2014 regionally, as well as National Cooperative Group ECOG-ACRIN where he chaired the Melanoma Committee 1989-2019 and now chairs the Prevention Committee. Globally, he has led the International Melanoma Working Group founded in 2005, where new adaptive trial designs are being introduced to accelerate approval of new therapies and combinations worldwide. Both at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and in the US National Clinical Trials Networks, biomarker discovery is an emphasis in trials that probe the mechanism of action of agents that may modulate the tumor microenvironment. The first neoadjuvant trials of BRAF/MEK inhibitors, and combinations of anti-PD1 and immunomodulators (toll like receptor agonists), are in progress, with blood and tissue biomarker corollaries. In patients with primary melanoma, Dr. Kirkwood is leading efforts to improve early detection and therapeutic prevention of melanoma using novel agents such as sulforaphane to modulate tumor progression from the atypical/dysplastic nevus to invasive melanoma.
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:
Maurer, DM, Adamik J, Santos PM, Shi J, Shurin MR, Kirkwood JM, Storkus WJ, Butterfield LH. Dysregulated NF-?B-Dependent ICOSL Expression in Human Dendritic Cell Vaccines Impairs T-cell Responses in Patients with Melanoma. Cancer Immunology Research. 2020; 8(12): 1554-1567.
Rohatgi A, Kirkwood JM. Cancer vaccine induces potent T cell responses - but is it enough?. Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology. 2020; 17(12): 721-722.
Grossman D, Okwundu N, Bartlett EK, Marchetti MA, Othus M, Coit DG, Hartman RI, Leachman SA, Berry EG, Korde L, Lee SJ, Bar-Eli M, Berwick M, Bowles T, Buchbinder EI, Burton EM, Chu EY, Curiel-Lewandrowski C, Curtis JA, Daud A, et al. Prognostic Gene Expression Profiling in Cutaneous Melanoma: Identifying the Knowledge Gaps and Assessing the Clinical Benefit. JAMA Dermatology. 2020; 156(9): 1004-1011.
Andrews LP, Somasundaram A, Moskovitz JM, Szymczak-Workman AL, Liu C, Cillo AR, Lin H, Normolle DP, Moynihan KD, Taniuchi I, Irvine DJ, Kirkwood JM, Lipson EJ, Ferris RL, Bruno TC, Workman CJ, Vignali DAA. Resistance to PD1 blockade in the absence of metalloprotease-mediated LAG3 shedding. Science Immunology. 2020; 5(49): eabc2728.
Chauvin JM, Ka M, Pagliano O, Menna C, Ding Q, DeBlasio R, Sanders C, Hou J, Li XY, Ferrone S, Davar D, Kirkwood JM, Johnston RJ, Korman AJ, Smyth MJ, Zarour HM. IL15 Stimulation with TIGIT Blockade Reverses CD155-mediated NK-Cell Dysfunction in Melanoma. Clinical Cancer Research. 2020; 26(20): 5520-5533.
Najjar YG, Navrazhina K, Ding F, Bhatia R, Tsai K, Abbate K, Durden B, Eroglu Z, Bhatia S, Park S, Chowdhary A, Chandra S, Kennedy J, Puzanov I, Ernstoff M, Vachhani P, Drabick J, Singh A, Xu T, Yang J, et al. Ipilimumab plus nivolumab for patients with metastatic uveal melanoma: a multicenter, retrospective study. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer. 2020; 8(1): e000331.
Subbiah V, Baik C, Kirkwood JM. Clinical Development of BRAF plus MEK Inhibitor Combinations. Trends in Cancer. 2020; 6(9): 797-810.
Santos PM, Adamik J, Howes TR, Du S, Vujanovic L, Warren S, Gambotto A, Kirkwood JM, Butterfield LH. Impact of checkpoint blockade on cancer vaccine-activated CD8+ T cell responses. Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2020; 217(7).
Seth R, Messersmith H, Kaur V, Kirkwood JM, Kudchadkar R, McQuade JL, Provenzano A, Swami U, Weber J, Alluri KC, Agarwala S, Ascierto PA, Atkins MB, Davis N, Ernstoff MS, Faries MB, Gold JS, Guild S, Gyorki DE, Khushalani NI, et al. Systemic Therapy for Melanoma: ASCO Guideline. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2020; 38(33): 3947-3970.
Notable Achievements
Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, 2019
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