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AACR Announces 2024 Distinguished Public Service Award Recipients

PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will present the 2024 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research to Franco Cavalli, MD, and the 2024 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award posthumously to Worta McCaskill-Stevens, MD, at the AACR Annual Meeting 2024, to be held from April 5-10 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.

Franco Cavalli, MD is president of the Foundation for the Institute of Oncology Research, which manages the Institute of Oncology Research (IOR) located in Bellinzona, Switzerland; the International Conference on Malignant Lymphoma (ICML); and the International Extranodal Lymphoma Study Group (IELSG). He is also past president of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), past chairman of the Scientific Committee of the European School of Oncology (ESO), and president of the World Oncology Forum (WOF).

Cavalli is being recognized for his longstanding scientific accomplishments in the breast cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma fields as well as for his clinical investigations involving VP16 and impactful contributions to the development of therapeutics including cisplatin, carboplatin, and paclitaxel. Additionally, he is being honored for his visionary leadership and commitment to improving global cancer research and health through innovative mechanisms such as the initiation and long-term development of ICML, the world’s premier lymphoma conference.

This award also honors Cavalli’s dedication to improving pediatric oncology research and care in Central America and his activities as president of the UICC, which contributed to the launch of the My Child Matters initiative and the World Cancer Declaration. Finally, he is being commended for his pioneering efforts to establish a number of entities that continue to propel the field forward, including the IOR, IELSG, ESO, Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland (IOSI), Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB), Bellinzona Institutes of Sciences (BIOS+), and EORTC Early Clinical Trials Group.

“Dr. Cavalli is an exceptional scientist and leader,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His work both in the lab and as a tireless advocate for improved collaboration and communication among cancer researchers has led to crucial progress against this dreaded disease for the benefit of patients around the world. The AACR is so proud to honor him with this prestigious award.”

Cavalli has been an AACR member since 1981 and has served on a number of AACR committees, including the AACR-Millennium Fellowship in Lymphoma Research scientific review committee (2013-2015) and Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research selection committee (1998-1999).

Cavalli has received many prestigious awards and honors over the course of his celebrated and highly productive career, including the Chinese American Hematologist and Oncologist Network (CAHON) Lifetime Achievement Award (2021); Chinese Anti-Cancer Association (CACA) International Collaboration and Outstanding Contribution Award (2016); European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Lifetime Achievement Award (2013); Henry Kaplan Memorial Lectureship (2013); Swiss Cancer League Prize (2008); International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR) Paul Carbone Award (2004); Waldmann Prize (2001); Pier Camillo Beccaria Award (1998); Pezcoller Recognition for Contribution to Oncology Award (1994); Danish Society for Medical Oncology Award (1991); ESMO Award (1991); and Johann Georg Zimmermann Prize (1979).

Cavalli received his medical degree from the University of Bern in Switzerland, has published more than 600 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and has contributed to the publication of several textbooks, including the revered Textbook of Medical Oncology.

Worta McCaskill-Stevens, MD, former chief of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group and former director of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), is being recognized and celebrated posthumously for her enormous contributions to clinical cancer research, most notably cancer disparities research and cancer health equity, as well as her relentless support of cancer clinical trials conducted in community hospitals and practices across the country. These efforts were made possible through her unparalleled leadership of NCORP.

With a personal passion for delivering care to vulnerable patient populations, McCaskill-Stevens devoted her career to including and supporting countless minority and underserved cancer patients in cutting-edge clinical trials. She is widely and deservedly remembered and revered for her lifelong commitment to ensuring that these patient populations receive the highest quality cancer health education, prevention, and treatment opportunities.

This award also honors McCaskill-Stevens’ selfless, unwavering mentorship of hundreds of students and early-stage investigators who are now continuing her legacy in the cancer research community. 

“Dr. McCaskill-Stevens was an inspiration to the entire cancer research community,” said Foti. “Her dedication to combatting the cancer disparities experienced by underserved patient populations has helped countless individuals access high-quality cancer care and health information. She is deeply missed. It is an honor to recognize her many contributions with this posthumous award.”

An AACR member since 2007, she was chair of the AACR Women in Cancer Research (WICR) Council from 2012 to 2013 and a member of the AACR Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Council. In 2016, she received the AACR-MICR Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship. Just prior to her recent passing, she was nominated for the 2024 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award.

McCaskill-Stevens received her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis and her medical degree from Georgetown University Medical School. At Georgetown, she received the Sarah E. Steward Award for Leadership in Medicine and the Kaiser Family Fund Award for Excellence in Academic Achievement in 1985. She trained in internal medicine at Georgetown and completed a fellowship in medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic.

McCaskill-Stevens worked as a breast cancer oncologist before joining NCI in 1998 in the Community Clinical Oncology Program. She also served as program director for the Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR), which involved nearly 20,000 postmenopausal women at increased risk of breast cancer, and she helped plan the Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (TMIST), an ongoing, international breast cancer screening trial of nearly 130,000 women ages 45 to 74. Notably, she herself participated in TMIST.

In August 2023, Monica Bertagnolli, MD, the then director of NCI and current director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced the creation of a training award named in her honor, the NCI Worta McCaskill-Stevens Career Development Award for Community Oncology and Prevention Research.

McCaskill-Stevens was recognized with numerous awards throughout her career, including the NIH Director’s Award (2009); NIH On-the-Spot Award (2009); NIH Merit Award for Breast Cancer Prevention (2011); and David King Community Clinical Scientist Award from the Association of Community Cancer Centers (2020). She was named one of Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 – Most Influential African Americans in Science and Health (2013) and received an honorary doctorate in science from Georgetown University (2017).

Cavalli and McCaskill-Stevens will be honored during the AACR Annual Meeting 2024 Opening Ceremony on Sunday, April 7.

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