Department of Medicine
Faculty Profiles by Division

Division of Hematology/Oncology

Faculty Profiles

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photo John M. Kirkwood, MD


Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine

Sandra and Thomas Usher Professor of Medicine, Dermatology & Translational Science

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
Roosevelt Fellow, ACS and UICC, National Cancer Insitute, Milan, Italy, 1985
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 operable high-risk melanoma settings. 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 trial designs to assess the myriad potential combinations of recently-approved molecular and immunological 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 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. Dr. Kirkwood initiated the Biospecimen Repository of the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program (1996-present, 7,000+ specimens) funded initially through his Specialized Program of Research Excellence 2008-2019, and more recently an endowment that have been promoted research by investigators within and outside the University of Pittsburgh, the Regional Melanoma Translational Research Consortium, the National Clinical Trials Network and the International Melanoma Working Group.
Clinical Interest
Dr. Kirkwood has studied the immunobiology of melanoma first in advanced, and then in the high-risk disease setting. His work led to the FDA & worldwide regulatory approval of the first adjuvant therapy for melanoma (IFN alfa, 1995) and more recently include the targeted BRAF/MEK inhibitor adjuvant therapy of stage III melanoma (dabrafenib/trametinib, approved 2018). He has led trials that brought more effective checkpoint blockade immunotherapies into the therapy of earlier (stage II) disease with anti-PD1 immunotherapy pembrolizumab (2021) and nivolumab (2022). He has turned to therapeutic prevention of melanoma, in the phase II ECOG-ACRIN-6201 (2022). His studies conducted locally in the UPMC have expanded to the Melanoma Translational Research Consortium (formed of 10 tri-state institutions, 2014, and the ECOG-ACRIN nationally as chair of the Melanoma Committee 1989-2019 and now chairing the EA-Prevention Committee. He has led the International Melanoma Working Group founded in 2005-present, working with the academic, pharmaceutical and regulatory authorities to accelerate new therapies and combinations. Both at UPMC HCC snd in the US National Clinical Trials Networks, biomarker discovery is an emphasis probing the mechanism of new agents. Dr. Kirkwood has conducted the first neoadjuvant trials of immunotherapies in melanoma, and combinations of anti-PD1 and other immunomodulators. In primary melanoma, Dr. Kirkwood is leading efforts to improve early detection and therapeutic prevention, analyzing progression from the atypical/dysplastic nevus into 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 a Melanoma and Skin Biology T32 training grant. He has published more than 550 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
Chair, ECOG-ACRIN Prevention Subcommittee, 2019-Present
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