American Association for Cancer Research

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AACR Elects Charles L. Sawyers, M.D., as President-elect 2012-2013


March 20, 2012

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PHILADELPHIA — The members of the American Association for Cancer Research have elected Charles L. Sawyers, M.D., as their president-elect for 2012-2013. Sawyers is chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Additionally, he is a professor in the Cell and Developmental Biology Program and the Department of Medicine at the Joan & Sanford Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University.

In his new role, Sawyers will work collaboratively with the AACR Board of Directors and the 34,000-plus membership to further the AACR’s mission to accelerate progress in the prevention and cure of cancer. He will officially become president-elect on Monday, April 2, at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012, held in Chicago, Ill. from March 31 - April 4, and will assume the presidency in April 2013.  

“I am deeply honored to serve as president-elect of the AACR,” said Sawyers. “We are in the midst of a transformative decade in cancer research, with many new therapies emerging from our work that are improving the lives of cancer patients around the world. Yet we are at risk of failing to realize this full vision due to the economic challenges faced by our nation. Now is not the time to cut our investment in cancer research. I will work with the outstanding staff of the AACR to get this important message to the leadership in Washington.”

“Dr. Sawyers’ research has revolutionized the cancer therapeutics landscape,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. “We are thrilled that an esteemed expert in clinical and translational research has been elected to serve as the next AACR president-elect. Dr. Sawyers shares in the AACR’s goal to bring a renewed commitment to increased, sustained funding for cancer research, and we know that he will lead the association with much vigor and commitment to make cancer research funding a higher national priority.”

A member of the AACR since 1998, Sawyers has demonstrated his dedication to the AACR through his extensive leadership and involvement in the association. He is a scientific editor of Cancer Discovery and was associate editor for Cancer Research (2000-2004), all of which are journals of the AACR.

Among his many accolades, he was keynote speaker (2009) and scientific committee co-chairperson (2003) of the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference: Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, co-chairperson of the AACR’s special conferences Targeting the PI3 Kinase Pathway in Cancer (2008) and Emerging Concepts in Oncology (2006), and was chairperson of the AACR’s educational workshop Molecular Biology in Clinical Oncology (2005-2007). Sawyers has also served as a member of the AACR Board of Directors, the Nominating Committee, the Council of Scientific Advisors, and the AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research Committee.

Among his extensive service to the field of cancer research, Sawyers is past president of the American Society of Clinical Investigation; served on the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Councilors; and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.

Sawyers has received numerous accolades for his clinical and translational research, including the AACR Richard & Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, the Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research, the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award, the ASCO David A. Karnofsky Award and the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.
His research efforts are currently centered on investigating the signaling pathways that drive the growth of cancer cells, with an eye toward designing new treatment options for patients. In collaboration with Brian Druker, M.D., at Oregon Health Sciences University, he developed the ABL kinase inhibitor imatinib as a primary therapy for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Shortly thereafter, his group discovered that resistance to imatinib is caused by BCR-ABL kinase domain mutations.

He worked closely with John Kuriyan, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, to examine the structural consequences of these mutations on the ABL kinase domain and postulated that second-generation ABL kinase inhibitors that bind to ABL differently from imatinib might retain activity against imatinib-resistant mutants. In collaboration with scientists at Bristol-Myers Squibb, his research showed that the dual Src/Abl inhibitor dasatinib has such properties in preclinical models, then co-led the clinical development of dasatinib as a treatment for imatinib-resistant CML.

Subsequently, he found that dasatinib resistance occurs through additional, novel BCR-ABL mutations, some of which remain sensitive to imatinib, making a strong case for combined ABL kinase inhibitor treatment to prevent the emergence of resistant subclones. Sawyers’ work in prostate cancer defined upregulation of androgen receptor signaling as the primary mechanism of resistance to hormone therapy, resulting in the discovery of the antiandrogen MDV3100 in collaboration with Michael Jung, that was recently shown to prolong survival in men with metastatic prostate cancer.

Additionally, in 2009, Sawyers was named a co-leader of the Stand Up To Cancer Dream Team: “Targeting the PI3K Pathway.” Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D., serves as leader. The AACR is a scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer. This Dream Team is a collaborative group of researchers investigating targeted therapies to treat women’s cancers.

Sawyers received his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1985. Three years later he completed residency training at the University of California, San Francisco, and joined the fellowship program of the division of hematology-oncology at UCLA. In 1993, Sawyers became an assistant professor at UCLA, and three years later was appointed associate chief of basic research and director of the Hematopoietic Malignancies and Bone Marrow Transplant Program. In 2002, he was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Sawyers joined Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 2006 to chair the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program.

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About the AACR

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR’s membership includes 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 18,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of individual and team science grants in cancer research that have the potential for patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policy makers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.  

For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

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