American Association for Cancer Research

Press Releases: 2010

AACR Applauds Presidential Nomination of Harold E. Varmus, M.D., as Director of the National Cancer Institute


May 17, 2010

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PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research, the world's oldest and largest cancer research organization, congratulates Harold E. Varmus, M.D., on his nomination by President Barack Obama to serve as the 14th director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

"Dr. Varmus will bring to the NCI an unrivaled appreciation for how basic science serves as the foundation for understanding healthy function as well as disease conditions," said Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Ph.D., president of the AACR. "His visionary leadership will allow NCI to continue leading the way in programs aimed at preventing disease, improving health and reducing suffering from cancer."

"This is a great day for cancer research. It is hard to imagine someone more qualified for this position," added Tyler Jacks, Ph.D., past president of the AACR. "Dr. Varmus has a tremendous wealth of experience, an abundance of good ideas and almost unlimited energy. The AACR looks forward to working with Dr. Varmus in the months and years to come."

"Cancer research is advancing at a staggering pace. Dr. Varmus' extraordinary vision and leadership will be vitally important in our efforts to further reduce cancer incidence and mortality," added Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. "As Dr. Varmus takes the helm of the NCI, the AACR is confident that we will accelerate the pace of discovery research and translational research, and thereby bring hope and improved survival to cancer patients everywhere."

Varmus, a Nobel Laureate and former head of the National Institutes of Health, most recently served as president and chief executive officer of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

He, along with J. Michael Bishop, M.D., and colleagues demonstrated the cellular origins of the oncogene of a chicken retrovirus, which led to the isolation of many cellular genes that normally control growth and development and are frequently mutated in human cancer. For this work, they won the 1989 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Varmus is also recognized for his studies of the replication cycles of retroviruses and hepatitis B viruses, the functions of genes implicated in cancer, and the development of mouse models of human cancer.

Varmus was named by President Clinton to serve as the director of the National Institutes of Health, a position he held from 1993 to 1999. He was appointed by President Barack Obama as co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Additionally, Varmus served on the World Health Organization's Commission on Macroeconomics and Health from 2000 to 2002; is a co-founder and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Public Library of Science, a publisher of open access journals in the biomedical sciences; and chaired the Scientific Board of the Grand Challenges in Global Health at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation from 2003 to 2008 where he now chairs the Foundation's Global Health Advisory Committee. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. He has received the National Medal of Science, the Vannevar Bush Award and several honorary degrees and other prizes.

Varmus will succeed John E. Niederhuber, M.D., director of the NCI since 2006. In addition to his leadership at the NCI, over the course of his career, Niederhuber has supported the advancement of cancer research as a professor, cancer center director, National Cancer Advisory Board chair, external advisor to the NCI, grant reviewer and laboratory investigator.

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 31,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 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, research fellowship and career development awards. 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.

Media Contact:
Michele Leiberman
(267) 646-0622
michele.leiberman@aacr.org