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American Association for Cancer Research Announces Recipients of the 2018 AACR June L. Biedler Prize for Cancer Journalism

Awardees to be recognized at the AACR Annual Meeting 2018
4/4/2018

​PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2018 AACR June L. Biedler Prize for Cancer Journalism in the following categories:

  • Large newspaper: David Crow, “You Can’t Escape Family History Like Yours,” Financial Times
  • Magazine: Esther Wei-Yun Landhuis, “Cancer’s Sweet Cloak,” Science News and Natasha Loder, “Closing in on Cancer: New Therapies and New Priorities,” The Economist
  • Television: Jay Korff, “Because of Daniel,” WJLA-TV/ABC News, Washington, D.C.
  • Radio: Carey Goldberg, “Fantasy No Longer: Blood Biopsies Detect Tumor DNA, Could Catch Cancer Earlier,” WBUR/Boston, NPR
  • Online/multimedia: Swagata Yadavar, “India’s Cancer-Care Crisis,” IndiaSpend.org

The winners in each category will be presented with a $5,000 cash prize and a plaque on Sunday, April 15, during the Opening Ceremony at the AACR Annual Meeting 2018, to be held in Chicago, April 14-18. The AACR Annual Meeting brings together over 22,000 of the world’s greatest minds in cancer research and patient care, who will applaud these journalists for their accurate, informative, and compelling stories about cancer, cancer research, or cancer policy. 

The AACR Biedler Prize was established to raise awareness of the critical role that the media play in educating the public about cancer and cancer research, and to recognize outstanding journalistic coverage that enhances the lay public’s understanding of cancer science.

The AACR Biedler Prize is named in honor of June L. Biedler, PhD, and its prizes are supported by a generous bequest that she made to the AACR. Biedler was a former member of the Board of Directors of the AACR and a recipient of the 1992 AACR G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award, which honors outstanding achievements in laboratory cancer research.

“Dr. Biedler was an inspirational scientist, a pioneer in cancer research who had a deep interest in enhancing the way in which the latest developments in cancer research are communicated to various audiences, including the public, because she strongly believed that communication is critically important to the acceleration of progress and improved public health,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “These recipients have shown incredible talent in covering the many types of cancer and its complexities for the public’s benefit. They exemplify Dr. Biedler’s dedication to furthering science and health care communications and are richly deserving of this prize.”

Stories for the 2018 prizes ranged from medical memoirs, cancer treatment throughout the ages, the potential cancer screening power of liquid biopsies, international cancer health disparities, and novel immunotherapy treatments. 

“Reporting about cancer is one of the most challenging assignments a journalist can have,” said Clifton Leaf, editor-in-chief of FORTUNE, who has served for the past two years as the chief judge of the AACR June L. Biedler Prize and who is the recipient of the European School of Oncology’s first Lifetime Achievement Award in Cancer Reporting. “Reporters have to dive into cancer’s mind-boggling complexity, but not drown in it. They have to show compassion and empathy for their subjects without sparing the tough questions, and they have to somehow improve the public’s understanding of a disease that, to this day, is still only partially understood,” Leaf added. “Amazingly, this year’s Biedler winners accomplished this triple feat and then some.”

The judging panel was comprised of journalists, scientists, and patient advocates, including:

  • Carlos M. Caldas, MD, Scientist, Cancer Research UK
  • Kay Colby, Managing Producer of Health, WVIZ/PBS Cleveland (2016 Recipient)
  • Damon Dahlen, Photographer, The Huffington Post (2017 recipient)
  • Debra Galant, Blogger, MidCenturyModernMagazine.com (2016 recipient)
  • Patricia M. LoRusso, DO, Scientist, Yale Cancer Center
  • George C. Prendergast, PhD, Scientist, Lankenau Institute for Medical Research
  • Erin Schumaker, Reporter, The Huffington Post (2017 recipient)
  • Maiken Scott, Reporter, WHYY Radio/NPR Philadelphia
  • Mary Jackson Scroggins, Patient Advocate, In My Sister’s Care
  • David Wahlberg, Reporter, Wisconsin State Journal (2017 recipient)

The AACR Biedler Prize administration is managed internally by the staff of the AACR Executive Office. After the judges rank each submission, the finalists are discussed and voted on during an intense, all-day selection meeting. 

Commentaries by the Judge Discussants

Commentary by Patricia LoRusso, DO, on “You Can’t Escape Family History Like Yours,” by David Crow
In his article, Crow transcribes his personal family history of cancer, and takes the reader on a scientific journey of genetic testing and what it means for family members of those diagnosed with cancer. His article is a poignant medical memoir on the author's quest to find out whether there was a genetic reason for the cancer that killed his mother and most of her family. Crow recounts how he decided to take a genetic test and asks the reader to join him on a scientific journey that charts the rising importance of genomics in cancer while exploring some of the pitfalls and unknowns.

Commentary by David Wahlberg on “Cancer’s Sweet Cloak,” by Esther Wei-Yun Landhuis
With vivid imagery and relatable summaries of basic science, Landhuis takes readers into the nascent world of sugar-based cancer immunotherapy. Sugars on tumor cells cloak cancer from the immune system, much like tumor proteins that are targets of today’s immunotherapies. New treatments might be developed to attack sugars, but sugars are much harder to study than proteins and such treatments could unleash unwanted immune responses, Landhuis explains in a powerful and balanced example of science writing.

Commentary by Erin Schumaker on “Closing in on Cancer: New Therapies and New Priorities,” by Natasha Loder
"Live long enough and [cancer] will be the reward," Natasha Loder writes in her masterful exploration of the new horizon of cancer therapies. In pared down and precise language, Loder spans testing and treatment territory ranging from blood screenings to vaccines to precision medicine, while also nodding to the histories of familiar 20th-century therapies of chemotherapy and radiation. Loder's ambitious result is a comprehensive look at where we've been and what lies ahead, which aptly details the challenges the next generation of cancer researchers face, while still being woven through with a thread of hope for our collective future.   

Commentary by Debra Galant on “Because of Daniel,” by Jay Korff
It's not unusual for the mother of a pediatric cancer patient to become an activist. But Jay Korff's story of Theresa Beech, whose son Daniel died of osteosarcoma at 13, turns an unexpected corner. The beautifully edited story never wallows in sentiment, proving instead that moms, even ones without medical training, can make important contributions to cancer research.

Commentary by Patricia LoRusso, DO, on “Fantasy No Longer: Blood Biopsies Detect Tumor DNA, Could Catch Cancer Earlier,” by Carey Goldberg
In her broadcast, Goldberg does an outstanding job of introducing the audience to the concept of circulating free DNA, a blood test that is being developed to look at the DNA composition of the tumor, talking about its relevance and importance by bringing together patients, scientists, and statements from Vice President Biden’s prioritizations of the Cancer Moonshot Program. It gives the listeners a very comprehensive understanding, in a simple format, of what this blood test means for cancer patients. She captures her audience through this eight-minute audio that brings hope for the future, and an understanding of research in the present. Taking on a complicated subject, Ms. Goldberg has applied her talent for investigation and communication to bring this still investigational test into the reality of cancer care for current and future patients.

Commentary by Kay Colby on “India’s Cancer-Care Crisis,” by Swagata Yadavar
This series chronicles the cancer-care crisis unfolding in India starting with the story of a 24-year old man who went from aspiring college student to cancer patient sleeping on the pavement in front of India’s largest specialized cancer hospital in Mumbai. The series uses a powerful blend of text, still photography, and video to illustrate the crisis through the eyes of patients and families, as well as illuminate holes in the government’s system of care for India’s poorest patients. Charts and graphs capturing survey data from 51 patients and families sleeping on the streets further illustrate the economic and social toll on those seeking treatment.     

For more information on the AACR June L. Biedler Prize for Cancer Journalism, go to www.aacr.org/biedlerprize.