Recipient of the 2023 Louis W. Sullivan, MD, Award: Duane A. Mitchell, MD, PhD

Duane A. Mitchell
Dr. Mitchell

Dr. Mitchell’s research focuses on the development of immunotherapy treatments for adults and children with malignant brain tumors. In studying glioblastoma, an aggressive and therapy-resistant aggressive type of cancer, his laboratory found that preconditioning the vaccine site with a potent recall antigen such as tetanus/diphtheria toxoid significantly improved lymph node homing and efficacy of tumor antigen–specific dendritic cells in both patients and a mouse model. His team discovered that certain hematopoietic stem cells could overcome complete resistance to PD-1 checkpoint blockade treatment through mechanisms that alter the tumor microenvironment in glioblastoma. In evaluation of personalized adoptive cellular therapy for refractory pediatric medulloblastoma, Dr. Mitchell demonstrated the safety and profound clonal T cell expansion of tumor-reactive lymphocytes; tumor-reactive T cells persisted in circulation for months after treatment in preclinical models and in children with relapsed medulloblastoma. Dr. Mitchell’s many discoveries have formed the basis of FDA-approved investigational new drug applications and first-in-human phase I and phase II clinical trials.

My sincerest hope is that through my research I can contribute to the body of knowledge that ultimately leads to more effective treatments for cancer, that through my mentorship I can turn my mistakes into others’ wisdom to be applied toward even greater goals, and that through my example, I can inspire the minds of other young people, particularly young black men, to pursue the remarkable journey and rewarding life of the physician-scientist.

— Dr. Mitchell
Drs. Licht, Mitchell, and Sullivan (seated) with DEIC member Dr. Dineo Khabele and  Co-Chair Dr. Sherita H. Golden (standing) at the Sullivan Award Presentation, Joint Meeting, April 22, 2023

Dr. Jonathan D. Licht nominated Dr. Mitchell for the Award in recognition of his “pioneering work, outstanding leadership, and dedicated service … In addition to being an accomplished scientist and excellent mentor, Dr. Mitchell is an impactful leader at our institution and on the national stage.”

Dr. Mitchell received his BA from Rutgers College and his MD and PhD from Duke University, where he also completed his residency and postdoctoral work. Along with his role as director of the University of Florida Clinical and Translational Science Institute, he is Assistant Vice President for Research; Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Sciences in the College of Medicine codirector of the Preston A. Wells, Jr., Center for Brain Tumor Therapy at UF Health; and Phyllis Kottler Friedman Professor in the Lillian S. Wells Department of Neurosurgery. Dr. Mitchell was elected to the ASCI in 2020.