Dr. Mario Capecchi Recognized With AACR Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research Award


​PHILADELPHIA — Mario R. Capecchi, PhD, will be honored for his tremendous scientific contributions, which have had a profound impact on the understanding of cancer, including his groundbreaking work in the development of gene targeting technology, with the 12th annual American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research at the AACR Annual Meeting 2015, to be held in Philadelphia, April 18-22.

Capecchi is the distinguished professor of biology and human genetics at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, an investigator with Huntsman Cancer Institute, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and a fellow of the AACR Academy. His pioneering work in the development of gene targeting technology in the mouse has led to a revolution in our ability to study the function of cancer genes, as well as the mechanisms of cancer development.

The AACR established the Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research in 2004 to honor an individual who has made significant 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.

Capecchi will be presented with the award during the opening ceremony, Sunday, April 19, 8:15 a.m. ET, in Hall A of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

A leader in the field of molecular genetics, Capecchi is best known for his pivotal role in the creation of gene-targeting technology, sometimes referred to as knockout technology. By manipulating specific genes within mouse-derived embryonic stem cells, he discovered how to genetically engineer a mouse devoid of a specific gene. This technology has spurred studies whereby researchers can analyze the specific function of a particular gene by investigating the biological repercussions of its absence. It has also proven to be a vital asset in the analysis of genetic mutations common in cancer patients. His work in this area was recognized in 2007 with the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Capecchi has also been involved in pioneering studies involving the Hox gene family. His studies of these genes have offered unique insights into the genetics of development within various organ systems, primarily the brain. Collectively, Capecchi’s findings have contributed immeasurably to the evolution of both molecular biology and genetics-based cancer research and have laid the groundwork for subsequent breakthroughs in cancer detection and treatment.

“Dr. Capecchi is a world-renowned scientist and Nobel laureate, and we are delighted to recognize his remarkable contributions to biomedical research and the field of cancer research through this award,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His groundbreaking studies on gene targeting in mice changed the way that investigators across the spectrum of biomedical research worked, allowing them to examine for the first time the role of specific genes in development, physiology, and pathology. Gene targeting has been used in the study of numerous diseases, including cancer, and will be central to many future lifesaving advances.”

“It is a great honor to be recognized by the AACR for lifetime achievements in cancer research, an institution that has done so much to advance cancer research. I look forward to participating in the 2015 Annual AACR Meeting in Philadelphia. This meeting is always a highlight for cancer researchers throughout the world and I am sure this year’s meeting will be no exception,” Capecchi said.

Capecchi has been recognized with numerous other awards, including the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research, the Wolf Prize in Medicine, the National Medal of Science, the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Science, the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Baxter Award for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Alfred P. Sloan Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, and the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology. He is also an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A native of Verona, Italy, Capecchi graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and received his doctorate from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has been at the University of Utah since 1973, beginning his tenure as a professor of biology.

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