American Association for Cancer Research

AACR Press Releases

AACR Honors Eminent Researchers


April 14, 2009

DENVER - The world's leading cancer researchers whose science has significantly contributed to progress in the fight against cancer will be recognized by the American Association for Cancer Research at its 100th Annual Meeting at the Colorado Convention Center.

A series of awards given annually by the AACR, the world's oldest and largest professional organization representing cancer scientists from the United States and nearly 80 other countries, honor outstanding accomplishments in basic cancer research, clinical research, epidemiology, therapeutics and prevention. Each recipient presents an educational lecture at the AACR Annual Meeting.

"We know scientists don't work for the accolades they may receive, but to advance the progress against cancer," said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. "The AACR believes that the acknowledgement and support it provides through these awards enables researchers to get closer to better prevention, treatments and cures for cancer."

The honorees are:

Jessica K. Tyler, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, will be awarded the 12th Annual AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship for her contributions to the understanding of how chromatin regulates gene expression, DNA repair and replication. Her research has greatly advanced the understanding of the fundamental cellular processes that are central to cancer progression. This award is presented to a scientist who has not only made meritorious contributions in the field of cancer research, but has also furthered the advancement of women in science.

"It is important that women have positive role models in science to enable them to realize they can achieve multiple goals in their life, including a successful career in science. I believe it is important to be highly visible in my role as a thriving scientist and parent," said Tyler.

Tyler's lecture, "Epigenetic Regulation of Gene Expression, DNA Repair, Aging and Cancer," will take place at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 18.

Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, is the recipient of the 4th Annual AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship for his contributions to the field of cancer in the area of health disparities. Brawley is a strong advocate for providing state-of-the-art treatment to disadvantaged groups, and has continued to challenge negative attitudes toward these groups. His commitment to health disparities has prompted many young scientists to conduct research in this field. Brawley's research on prostate cancer has led to clinical trials of dietary agents, which may be used for prostate cancer chemoprevention. He was also instrumental in establishing the importance of hormonal prevention strategies for prostate cancer.

The AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship was established in 2006 to give recognition to an outstanding scientist who has made meritorious contributions to the field of cancer research and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered the advancement of minority investigators in cancer research.

Brawley's lecture, "A Skeptic's View of Healthcare Disparities and Healthcare Reform," will take place at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 19.

F. Peter Guengerich, Ph.D., Harry Broquist professor of biochemistry and director of the Center in Molecular Toxicology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, will be awarded the 3rd Annual AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research. Guengerich will be honored for his research understanding of how carcinogens are metabolized to become cancer-causing agents. This award is designed to honor a researcher whose outstanding, novel and significant chemistry research has led to important contributions to the fields of basic cancer research, translational cancer research, cancer diagnosis, and the prevention of cancer or the treatment of patients with cancer.

"I have been fascinated by chemistry since I was a boy, and have never lost the thrill of applying my knowledge of chemistry to important biological problems," said Guengerich. "I get to learn new science every day, apply it to important problems and train bright young people to do the same. I use my insight in chemistry to address exciting challenges, and I interact with brilliant and interesting people in multiple avenues."

Guengerich's lecture, "Mechanisms of Mutation: Interactions of DNA Polymerases with Carcinogen-Damaged DNA," will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 19.

James R. Heath, Ph.D., Elizabeth W. Gilloon professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, will be awarded the 5th Annual AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship for his application of the knowledge of nanoscience and nanomaterials to cancer research. Heath's work has the potential to revolutionize diagnostic medical testing through the creation of a tool that can measure the concentrations of dozens of blood-based protein biomarkers from a finger prick in about five minutes. The AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship was established in 2004 to recognize outstanding science that inspires new thinking and perspectives on the etiology, diagnosis, treatment or prevention of cancer.

"There are a bunch of tremendously hard problems in cancer biology and cancer-based translational medicine" said Heath. "I feel like it is important to try to identify simple solutions to hard problems, and that requires creativity. It also requires that you be willing to try a lot of dumb things to eventually get to the right answer."

Heath's lecture, "Approaches Toward Unraveling the Paradoxical Relationship Between Cancer and the Immune System," will take place at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, April 20.

Joan Massagué, Ph.D., Alfred P. Sloan chair of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will receive the 49th Annual AACR G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award for defining the mechanisms by which signals initiated by transforming growth factor-? (TGF-?) are conveyed from their receptors on the cell membrane to the nucleus to affect cell proliferation, differentiation, and cancer. He is also recognized for his recent studies that identified genes that define metastatic tissue tropism, providing a firm genetic basis for understanding the ability of breast cancer cells to colonize either the lung or bone.
The AACR and Eli Lilly and Company established this award in 1961 to honor Dr. G.H.A. Clowes, a founding member of the AACR. This honor recognizes an individual with outstanding recent accomplishments in basic cancer research.

Massagué's lecture, "TGF-ß in Cancer," will take place at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 21.

W. Marston Linehan, M.D., chief of the urological branch for the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute, will be awarded the 14th Annual AACR Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Research for defining the genetic basis of clear cell kidney cancer, hereditary papillary renal carcinoma (HPRC), and chromophobe kidney cancer, and providing the basis for the molecular therapeutic approaches to therapy for these diseases.

Linehan's research in kidney cancer has been far reaching, including the establishment of a comprehensive hereditary kidney cancer program at the National Institutes of Health to study families with kidney cancer and to identify the genes involved, identifying the gene responsible for HPRC and helping to define the current approaches for HPRC clinical and surgical management. The AACR Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Research is presented to a scientist who has made outstanding achievements in clinical cancer research.

Linehan's lecture, "The Genetic Basis of Kidney Cancer: Disease Specific Approaches to Therapy," will take place at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 21.

Todd R. Golub, M.D., founding director of the cancer program at the Broad Institute and Charles A. Dana investigator in human cancer genetics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will be awarded the 33rd Annual AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award for his groundbreaking contributions to cancer research through the application of basic biology and genomics, to cancer diagnostic and therapeutic target discovery. His work led to the commercialization of genomic tests to aid patients in treatment decisions. His current work, using genomics to transform the drug discovery process, has led to potential new treatments for acute myeloid leukemia, prostate cancer and Ewing sarcoma. This award is designed to provide incentive to young investigators relatively early in their careers. It was established in 1977 by the AACR and the Rosenthal Foundation to recognize research that has made, or promises to make, a notable contribution to improved clinical care in the field of cancer.

Golub's lecture, "Genomic Information in Cancer," will take place at 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21.

Curtis C. Harris, M.D., chief of the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis at the National Cancer Institute, will receive the 3rd Annual AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship for his several decades of scientific collaborations with Japanese scientists and his early and continuing efforts to forge friendships between Japanese and U.S. scientific communities.

"Cancer is worldwide. However, etiology, incidence and mortality vary among populations," said Harris. "An international collaborative effort is required to understand these differences as well as similarities."

Harris's research demonstrated how inheritable characteristics of DNA play a role in a person's susceptibility to environmental carcinogens. The AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lecture is presented to a scientist whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of cancer, and who embodies the dedication of the Princess to multinational collaborations.

Harris's lecture, "Inflammation and Cancer: Interweaving MicroRNA, Inflammatory Cytokine and p53 Pathways," will take place at 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21.

John D. Potter, M.D., Ph.D., member and senior advisor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, will be awarded the 18th Annual AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention for his contributions to the understanding of epidemiology and prevention of colorectal cancer. Potter has studied and clarified the roles of diet, exercise, hormones and genetics in the cause of this cancer. This award was established in 1992 to honor outstanding research accomplishments in the fields of cancer epidemiology, biomarkers and prevention.

"It is not just good lab science and excellent technology that allow us to understand human health and disease; what we need are very large numbers of healthy humans who are partners in developing our collective understanding why some of us get specific diseases and some stay healthy into old age," said Potter. "Helping to act upon this insight with enthusiasm and the right resources is, for me right now, what makes this field exciting."

Potter's lecture, "Chemoprevention: Why Do We Keep Getting It Wrong?" will take place at 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21.

Victor E. Velculescu, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, is the recipient of the 29th Annual AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research for his work that focuses on the genomic analyses of human cancer. Velculescu has pinpointed the gene PIK3CA as one of the most frequently mutated genes ever identified in human cancer. He has obtained the first draft genome sequence of the four human cancer types: breast, colorectal, pancreatic and glioblastoma multiforme. These discoveries have identified a wealth of genes important in tumorigenesis, and provide new opportunities for individualized diagnostic and therapeutic approaches in human cancer.

Velculescu's lecture, "Integrated Genomic Analyses of Human Cancer," will take place at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22.

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes more than 28,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and nearly 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.

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