American Association for Cancer Research

Press Releases: 2012

Sixth Annual AACR Margaret Foti Award Presented to John Mendelsohn, M.D.


March 28, 2012

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CHICAGO — John Mendelsohn, M.D., will receive the Sixth Annual American Association for Cancer Research Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012 during the opening ceremony on Sunday, April 1, at 8:15 a.m. CT in room W375.

This award recognizes an individual whose leadership and extraordinary achievements in cancer research, or in support of cancer research, have made a major impact on the field.

“Dr. Mendelsohn was a pioneer in the area of targeted cancer therapies, specifically working with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibition,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The AACR commends him for his groundbreaking research on targeted therapy, which opened the door to a new way of thinking about cancer and its treatment. In addition, Dr. Mendelsohn is both a nationally and internationally recognized leader in cancer policy.”

“I am thrilled to receive this award because it is in honor of a great leader, Dr. Foti, and because it recognizes my lifetime commitment to improving the care of cancer patients through research,” Mendelsohn said. “I have been privileged to work with many outstanding laboratory and clinical investigators in initiating the field of targeted cancer therapy and in expanding translational cancer research programs at three great academic institutions.”

Mendelsohn currently serves as co-director of The University Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy (IPCT). The IPCT is a research program designed to embrace a multidisciplinary approach including laboratory researchers, clinicians and investigators to test cancer therapies targeting abnormal genes and gene products detected in an individual patient’s cancer. He is also chair of the National Cancer Policy Forum of the Institute of Medicine.

Prior to this, Mendelsohn served as the president of MD Anderson from 1996 to 2011, recently stepping down to return to clinical and translational research. During his time as president, Mendelsohn worked with a visionary management team to transform the cancer center into what it is today, one of the world’s most respected cancer research centers. Under his supervision and guidance, MD Anderson was ranked as number one in cancer care in the nation, for eight out of the last 10 years, in the “America’s Best Hospitals” survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report.

However, Mendelsohn’s significant contributions to the cancer community extend far outside of the walls of MD Anderson.

In an effort to meet the increasing demand for training of international physicians and scientists, Mendelsohn established the Center for Global Oncology, an organization that coordinates MD Anderson’s formal affiliations with more than 24 foreign academic, health care and government entities. In the 1990s he worked with cancer leaders at other health care centers to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

In addition to an impressive list of book chapters and editorials, Mendelsohn has authored or co-authored more than 200 scientific articles, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Clinical Cancer Research, one of the seven journals of the AACR.

Among Mendelsohn’s many contributions to cancer research, his most significant research revolved around studying the cell surface receptor tyrosine kinase epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a member of the ErbB family of proteins. This receptor represents one of the most important proteins in cancer research, as the receptor is capable of being activated by a number of extracellular, stimulatory proteins and molecules, inevitably leading to subsequent activation of intracellular biological signaling pathways that involve cancer-causing genes (oncogenes).

Prior to our current understanding of this family of proteins, Mendelsohn and his collaborators hypothesized that inhibition of EGFR and of tyrosine kinases in general might represent a potential avenue for effective cancer treatments. This notion led to the creation of monoclonal antibody mAb-225 (cetuximab), the first agent capable of blocking EGFR activation, in turn inhibiting cellular growth. These findings quickly led to mAb-225 entering clinical trials, where it became the first successful agent specifically designed to safely and effectively target a growth factor receptor and/or a tyrosine kinase. Subsequent to this work, nearly a dozen agents activate against the EGFR family of tyrosine kinases have been developed and taken into the clinic. The drug (mAb) cetuximab received FDA approval for use against colon cancer in 2004 and two years later was approved for the treatment of head and neck cancer. These results speak to the importance of this drug discovery and its implications for the treatment of many cancers.

Additionally, Mendelsohn has been influential in research that provided proof that the anti-HER2/neu (ErbB-2) agent trastuzumab could produce a clinically useful response rate in patients. He was also instrumental in the first clinical trials to demonstrate that the addition of EGFR inhibitors could overcome chemotherapeutic resistance in patients.

Mendelsohn has received numerous awards and honors, including the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Lila Gruber Memorial Cancer Research Award from the American Academy of Dermatology and the Dorothy P. Landon–AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research.

Mendelsohn received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1958. He conducted his graduate studies in biochemical sciences at Harvard and received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1963.

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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
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