American Association for Cancer Research

Press Releases: 2012

Research Team Honored for Innovative Science to Advance Cancer Research and Patient Benefit


March 22, 2012

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A Team from The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden Hospital U.K. Receives the AACR’s Sixth Annual Team Science Award

CHICAGO — The Sixth Annual AACR Team Science Award will be presented to a team of researchers from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden Hospital: Cancer Research U.K. Cancer Therapeutics Unit and Drug Development Unit, during the AACR Annual Meeting 2012, held here March 31 - April 4.

The AACR Team Science Award recognizes an outstanding interdisciplinary research team for its innovative and meritorious scientific work that has advanced or will likely advance cancer research, detection, diagnosis, prevention or treatment. This team was selected based on its tremendous impact in preclinical and clinical studies relating to cancer therapeutics.

“This team’s research is an outstanding example of how innovative cancer research conducted by a highly functioning translational team can start with biologic hypotheses and ultimately lead to much-needed cancer therapeutics,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research. “The AACR congratulates this research team for its successes to date and looks forward to its future accomplishments that help cancer patients.”

The 2012 AACR Team Science Award will be presented during the opening ceremony on Sunday, April 1, beginning at 8:15 a.m. CT in the Skyline Ballroom of McCormick Place.

The ICR and Royal Marsden Hospital: Cancer Research U.K. Cancer Therapeutics Unit and Drug Development Unit Team, which is based in Sutton and London, U.K., has been responsible, with academic and industrial collaborators, for the discovery of 16 therapeutic drug candidates over the past six years. Six of these candidate drugs, which include highly innovative inhibitors of the molecular chaperone heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), protein kinase B/AKT, and cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs), have now entered clinical trials. The 16-member team also carried out pioneering preclinical work on BRAF and its inhibitors and discovered CHK1 and dual Aurora/FLT3 inhibitors.

Led by Paul Workman, Ph.D., D.Sc., F.Med.Sci., Harrap professor of pharmacology and therapeutics and deputy chief executive at the ICR, as well as head of the division of cancer therapeutics and director of the Cancer Research U.K. Cancer Therapeutics Unit, this team’s many research accomplishments include the discovery and development of abiraterone.

This drug is used to treat castration-resistant prostate cancer by inhibiting CYP17A1, a critical enzyme required for the production of testosterone in the body. By inhibiting the enzymatic production of testosterone precursor molecules in the body, abiraterone essentially helps starve the cancer for fuel, which in this case is often testosterone or its derivative, dihyroxytestosterone.

Workman’s research team evaluated abiraterone through phase I and II clinical studies where the drug demonstrated impressive anti-tumor activity with excellent tolerability. In partnership with a biotechnology company, the team subsequently was involved in a multinational phase III study that demonstrated a survival advantage of four months following abiraterone treatment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved abiraterone in April 2011 for the treatment of metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer. It has also been approved by Health Canada and the European Medicines Agency.

Overall, the work carried out by this multidisciplinary team over the last six years provides an outstanding example of the nonprofit cancer drug discovery and development model that they have pioneered, as well as exemplifying a meritorious ability to collaborate productively with industry to accelerate patient benefit.

“I am proud and honored to accept this award on behalf of our team at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden,” Workman said. “The dedicated members of our multidisciplinary team are all individually experts in their respective fields of cancer biology, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry and medical oncology. This expertise is really important, but it’s also the very close collaboration between the scientists and doctors in our cancer research institute and partner hospital, as well as industry colleagues, that has really enhanced our ability to translate basic scientific research into new personalized cancer medicines.”

“This award is a great endorsement of the academic drug discovery and development model that we pioneered. Most of all we are thrilled that we have been able to make a real and ongoing impact on the lives of cancer patients,” he added.

Harpal Kumar, D.Sc., Cancer Research U.K.’s chief executive, said: “We’re delighted that Cancer Research U.K.-funded scientists have been recognized for their work in bringing more effective treatments to patients with this prestigious award. The great achievement reflects the often groundbreaking work that our researchers are leading, taking us closer to our vision of beating cancer.”

The AACR Team Science Award, generously supported by a grant from Eli Lilly and Company, is presented with the intent to stimulate change within the traditional cancer research culture by recognizing those individuals and institutions that value and foster interdisciplinary team science. The winning team collectively receives a $50,000 prize and is recognized for its scientific accomplishments and leadership role in fostering team science to advance cancer research.  

Honorees include (in alphabetical order):

  • Bissan Al-Lazikani, Ph.D., leader of the Computational Biology and Chemogenomics Research Team;
  • Udai Banerji, Ph.D., Cancer Research U.K. senior clinical lecturer at the ICR and The Royal Marsden;
  • Julian Blagg, D.Phil., head of medicinal chemistry, deputy director of the Cancer Research U.K. Cancer Therapeutics Unit, leader of the Medicinal Chemistry 1 Research Team;   
  • Ian Collins, Ph.D., leader of the Medicinal Chemistry 2 Research Team;  
  • Johann S. de Bono, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Drug Development Unit and leader of Prostate Targeted Treatment Research Team;
  • Sue Eccles, Ph.D., leader of the Tumor Biology and Metastasis Research Team;
  • Michelle D. Garrett, Ph.D., leader of the Cell Cycle Control Research Team;
  • Swen Hoelder, Ph.D., leader of the Medicinal Chemistry 4 Research Team;  
  • Keith Jones, Ph.D., leader of the Medicinal Chemistry 3 Research Team;
  • Stan Kaye, M.D., Ph.D., Cancer Research U.K. professor of medical oncology at the ICR and The Royal Marsden;
  • Spiros Linardopoulos, Ph.D., leader of the Target Discovery and Apoptosis Research Team;  
  • Richard Marais, Ph.D., head of the Division of Cancer Biology and leader of the Signal Transduction Research Team;  
  • Florence I. Raynaud, Ph.D., leader of the Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics Research Group;
  • Caroline J. Springer, Ph.D., leader of the Gene and Oncogene Targeting Research Team;  
  • Rob L.M. van Montfort, Ph.D., leader of the Hit Discovery and Structural Design Research Team; and
  • Paul Workman, Ph.D., D.Sc., F.Med.Sci., director of the Cancer Research U.K. Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR.
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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 policymakers 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.

Media Contact:
Tara Yates
(215) 446-7110
Tara.Yates@aacr.org
In Chicago, March 31 - April 4:
(312) 528-8206