American Association for Cancer Research

AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research

Douglas Hanahan, Ph.D.  11th Annual Award Recipient
Douglas Hanahan, Ph.D.
Director, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC)
Professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)
Vice-Director, Swiss Cancer Center Lausanne
Lausanne, Switzerland

Dr. Hanahan will receive his award at the Opening Ceremony which will be held on Sunday, April 6, 2014, from 8 to 9 a.m. in the San Diego Convention Center. Visit the AACR Annual Meeting 2014 page for more information.

  • View the list of all past recipients.
  • Learn more about the 2014 AACR award recipient.

The Award

The AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was established and first given in 2004 to honor an individual who has made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work. These contributions, whether they have been in research, leadership or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer.

The recipient receives an honorarium, a commemorative award, and support for the winner and a guest to attend the AACR Annual Meeting.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Nominations may be made on behalf of individuals who are living at the time of the nomination.
  • Candidates need not be members of the AACR.
  • Candidates need not be currently engaged in cancer research.
  • There are no restrictions with regard to race, gender, nationality, geographic location, or religious or political views.
  • The award will be presented to an individual investigator.
  • Institutions or organizations are not eligible for the award.

Nomination Process

Nominations are closed.

Nominations may be made by any scientist, whether an AACR member or nonmember, who is now or has been affiliated with any institution involved in cancer research, cancer medicine, or cancer-related biomedical science. Candidates may not nominate themselves.


Candidates will be considered by a Selection Committee of international cancer leaders appointed by the president of the AACR. After careful deliberations by the committee, its recommendations will be forwarded to the Executive Committee of the AACR for final consideration and decision. Selection of the award recipient will be made on the basis of the candidate's significant, fundamental contributions to cancer research (whether in research, leadership or mentorship); the lasting impact of these contributions on the cancer field; and the demonstration of a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer.


American Association for Cancer Research
To inquire about support opportunities for this award, please contact the AACR Foundation for the Prevention and Cure of Cancer.


Linda Stokes, Program Associate
American Association for Cancer Research
615 Chestnut Street, 17th Floor
Philadelphia, PA  19106-4404


Douglas Hanahan, Ph.D. 11th Annual Award Recipient
Douglas Hanahan, Ph.D.

Director, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC)
Professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)
Vice-Director, Swiss Cancer Center Lausanne
Lausanne, Switzerland

Dr. Hanahan has made numerous seminal contributions to cancer research, both in terms of his research and the tools he developed, as well as in his broad influence and impact in the community. Dr. Hanahan has a keen ability to integrate multiple sub-areas of cancer research from genomics and oncogenes to tumor microenvironment to immune modulation, attesting to his incredibly broad bandwidth and ability to seamlessly integrate ideas from traditionally separate areas of cancer research.

As a graduate student, Dr. Hanahan developed new procedures for plasmid transformation and DNA cloning that vastly improved efficiency, in turn facilitating molecular genetics research as a whole. He then went on to engineer some of the first transgenic mouse models of cancer, including a pancreatic tumor model that has proved to be a valuable prototype of multistage tumorigenesis, widely used to this day. He worked closely with the Judah Folkman, and together they discovered the “angiogenic switch” using his mouse cancer models. Subsequent research helped identify mediators of tumor angiogenesis, and promoted the field of anti-angiogenic therapy. His involvement and contributions to the field of tumor angiogenesis continues to this day. More than 20 years ago he began using genetically engineered mouse models of cancer to evaluate mechanism-guided therapies aimed at tumor angiogenesis and other tumor phenotypes; his efforts helped incentivize clinical trials that changed the standard-of-care for human pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.

Dr. Hanahan broadly explored the potential of using transgenic models as probes into complex mammalian systems; for example he also made significant contributions to understanding autoimmunity towards the insulin-producing islet beta cells. He provided one of the first demonstrations that self-tolerance and autoimmunity could be modeled by transgenic introduction of neoantigens into mouse germlines, which in turn revealed the existence of rare peripheral antigen-expressing cells in the thymus involved in induction of self-tolerance. His work documenting insulin gene expression in the thymus helped establish the now well-accepted concept that "ectopic" gene expression by cells in the thymus were involved in establishing self-tolerance to rare self-antigens. His lab went on to develop other transgenic mouse models for immunology research, including T-cell receptor transgenic mice that were informative about the limited capacity of islet beta cells to tolerize self-reactive T cells.

Dr. Hanahan’s multidisciplinary expertise also allowed him to contribute to the understanding of the tumor microenvironment. He was among the first to show that the tumor microenvironment was actually a barrier to anti-tumor cytotoxic T-cell attack, a concept that is now well-accepted. He also helped establish the concept that inflammation could be tumor-promoting, exploring interactions between tumor-infiltrating immune cells, cancer-associated fibroblasts, tumor-associated vascular cells, and extracellular matrix proteases, which through their interactions with cancer cells influence tumor development and progression. His recent and ongoing work includes studies on genetic signatures and physical cues in the microenvironment that modulate tumor invasion and metastasis, with promise to further advance knowledge of cancer mechanisms and therapeutic applications.
While his scientific contributions are unquestionable, his impact on the field extends in many other ways. Dr. Hanahan trained and promoted the careers of a growing cadre of prominent young cancer researchers. He co-authored with Robert Weinberg a highly cited perspective, “The Hallmarks of Cancer,” which presented an organizing principle that has served to conceptually integrate the vast complexity of cancer. Currently, Dr. Hanahan is a professor in the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research at EPFL. His colleagues credit him with transforming the cancer research community in Lausanne, by recruiting exciting talent and helping bring together clinical and basic cancer researchers, and inspiring new directions in integrative cancer research, in particular the creation of the new multi-institutional Swiss Cancer Center Lausanne (SCCL), which seeks to become the first comprehensive cancer center in Switzerland. Thus continuation of his contributions to cancer science and medicine can be anticipated.