Department of Medicine

Department of Medicine

  Division of Hematology/Oncology

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photo John M. Kirkwood, MD

Usher Professor of Medicine, Dermatology & Translational Science

Director, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program


Phone: 412-623-7707

Office: 5117 Centre Avenue
Suite 1.32
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone: 412-623-7707
Fax: 412-623-7704
Administrative Assistant:
Lisa Huntley
Address: Hillman Cancer Center, Research Pavilion
5117 Centre Avenue, Suite 1.32c
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. He developed the first FDA-approved immunotherapy of melanoma (1996) and has led immunotherapy development in cancer for the past 45 years, beginning decades before immunotherapy had reached the limelight it has achieved in melanoma and other solid tumors over the past 5 years. He has advanced the multimodal therapy of melanoma with surgery, stereotactic radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and molecular antitumor agents, and is now pioneering new approaches to the assessment of combinations of the 10 recently-approved new immunotherapies and molecular therapies that are anticipated to be the focus of the next decade of clinical translational research.

The Kirkwood laboratory is engaged in the molecular and immunohistological analysis of melanoma, studying tissues from the institutional, national, and international trials with which Dr. Kirkwood is engaged. Metastatic and loco-regional tumor tissues from patients participating in new combination therapies, neoadjuvant trials, and prevention interventions are examined with an emphasis upon the alterations in immunomodulatory STAT signaling pathways, and effector immune responses.
Clinical Interest
Dr. Kirkwood has advanced new and more efficient trial designs to accelerate regulatory approval of new therapies and combinations. In the International Melanoma Working Group these trials for metastatic disease propose to utilize adaptive design, intermediate endpoints, and a global collaboration among the leading academic institutions and pharmaceutical firms with melanoma advocacy, and regulatory authorities to accelerate our assessment of new agents and combinations. In the US National Cooperative Groups the national trials he has led have utilized factorial design, and prospective blood and tissue biomarker corollaries, to establish and confirm the first effective adjuvant therapy of melanoma. In patients with operable high-risk melanoma his institutional and regional consortium adjuvant studies have pioneered neoadjuvant trial designs that have illuminated the mechanism of the interferons, checkpoint inhibitors, and multiple combinations that are anticipated to further improve clinical outcomes for operable high-risk melanoma. In patients with earlier primary melanoma, he is leading efforts to improve early detection, and chemoprevention with nutritional agents that may prevent melanoma progression from atypical/dysplastic nevus precursors with minimal or no 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 published more than 365 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:
Kaufman HL, Kirkwood JM,, Hodi FS,, Agarwala S, Amatruda T, Bines SD,, Clark JI, Curti B,, Ernstoff MS. The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer consensus statement on tumour immunotherapy for the treatment of cutaneous melanoma. Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2013; doi: 10.1038/nrclinonc.2013.153.
Ribas A, Kefford R, Marshall MA, Punt CJ, Haanen JB, Marmol M, Garbe C, Gogas H, Schachter J. Phase III randomized clinical trial comparing tremelimumab with standard-of-care chemotherapy in patients with advanced melanoma. J Clin Oncol. 2013; 31: 616-22.
Flaherty KT, Lee SJ, Zhao F, Schuchter LM, Flaherty L, Kefford R, Atkins MB, Leming P, Kirkwood JM. Phase III trial of carboplatin and paclitaxel with or without sorafenib in metastatic melanoma. J Clin Oncol. 2013; 31: 373-9.
Tawbi HA, Beumer JH, Tarhini AA, Moschos S, Buch SC, Egorin MJ, Lin Y, Christner S, Kirkwood JM. Safety and efficacy of decitabine in combination with temozolomide in metastatic melanoma: a phase I/II study and pharmacokinetic analysis. Ann Oncol. 2013; Epub: 1112-9.
Tarhini AA, Kirkwood JM. How much of a good thing? What duration for interferon alfa-2b adjuvant therapy?. J Clin Oncol. 2012; 30: 3773-6.
Kirkwood JM, Butterfield LH, Tarhini AA, Zarour H, Kalinski P, Ferrone S. Immunotherapy of cancer in 2012. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012; 62: 309-35.
Tarhini AA, Cherian J, Moschos SJ, Tawbi HA, Shuai Y, Gooding WE, Sander C, Kirkwood JM. Safety and efficacy of combination immunotherapy with interferon alfa-2b and tremelimumab in patients with stage IV melanoma. J Clin Oncol. 2012; 20: 322-8.
Tawbi HA, Kirkwood JM. Targeted therapies: BREAKing a path for progress--dabrafenib confirms class effect. Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2012; 9: 496-7.
Long GV, Trefzer U, Davies MA, Keffor RF, Ascierto PA, Chapman PB, Puzano I, Hauschild A, Robert C. Dabrafenib in patients with Val600Glu or Val600Lys BRAF-mutant melanoma metastatic to the brain (BREAK-MB): a multicentre, open-label, phase 2 trial. Lancet Oncol. 2012; 13: 1087-95.
Chapman PB, Hauschild A, Robert C, Haanen JB, Ascierto P, Larkin J, Dummer R, Garbe C, Testori A. Improved survival with vemurafenib in melanoma with BRAF V600E mutation. T. N Eng J Med. 2011; 364: 2507-16.
Notable Achievements
Member Association of American Physicians
American Skin Association, Leader in Melanoma Research, Treatment and Prevention, 2016
Elsie Hillman Distinguished Scholar Award, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, 2015
Merrill J. Egorin MD Excellence in Scientific Leadership, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, 2013
Bridge Award for Lifetime Scientific Accomplishment, Naples-USA Committee, Naples, Italy, 2013