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AACR Recognizes Michelle M. Le Beau, PhD, with 2020 AACR-Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has selected Michelle M. Le Beau, PhD, FAACR, to receive the 2020 AACR-Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research.

Le Beau is director of the Cancer Cytogenetics Laboratory and Arthur and Marian Edelstein Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, a position she has held since 2004. She is receiving the award in recognition of her exceptional leadership, direction, and strategic vision at University of Chicago Medicine. Additionally, Le Beau is an internationally renowned leader in the field of cancer genetics and is heralded for using cytogenetic and molecular genetic tools to identify critical recurring abnormalities in human leukemias, including inversions, translocations, and deletions of chromosomes 5 and 7 in leukemia following cancer treatment. She is known as a tireless champion of cancer research on the international stage.

“Dr. Le Beau is a preeminent scientist whose distinguished body of research has significantly advanced the field of hematological malignancies, including our understanding of the chromosomal abnormalities underpinning leukemia development,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “In addition to her pioneering research, Dr. Le Beau’s exceptional leadership skills and dedication to mentoring early-career investigators have garnered widespread acclaim. I am really delighted that she has been chosen by the selection committee to receive this award.”

The Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research was established in 2007 to recognize a champion of cancer research whose leadership and extraordinary achievements in cancer research have had a major impact on the field. Such achievements may include scientific contributions to the acceleration of progress against cancer, significant accomplishments associated with national or international awareness of the importance of cancer research, or other ways of demonstrating a sustained extraordinary commitment to cancer research. 

Le Beau is an international authority on the molecular analysis of recurring chromosomal abnormalities in human leukemias and lymphomas, the correlation of specific abnormalities with morphological and clinical features, and the development of risk-adapted therapy. Through her work, she has been instrumental in deepening the understanding of the onset and progression of numerous hematological malignancies, including implicating deletions on chromosomes 5 and 7 as oncogenic drivers of therapy-related myeloid leukemias. Her current work focuses on the analysis of the genes on chromosome 5 that are involved in therapy-related AML; the development and characterization of mouse models harboring AML driver mutations; the identification of secondary mutations and genetic pathways essential to leukemogenesis; and the application of mouse models for preclinical testing of potential therapeutics.

As director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, Le Beau has overseen the reorganization of the cancer center, making care more efficient for patients and providers. Le Beau’s strategic vision to reform the cancer center to better allow the sharing of resources and talent led to the Comprehensive Cancer Center accreditation by the National Cancer Institute in 2008. Le Beau is also renowned for her mentorship of early-career scientists, training many who have gone on to become leading cancer researchers themselves.

Le Beau, a member of the AACR since 2002, served on the AACR Board of Directors from 2012 to 2015 and chaired the AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research Committee in 2016. She has also served on the AACR Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee, AACR Finance and Audit Committee, Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research Committee, and AACR Tellers Committee. In addition, Le Beau is a scientific editor for the AACR’s newest scientific journal, Blood Cancer Discovery.

Among other significant appointments, Le Beau has served as president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (2012-2014), member of the executive committee of the American Society of Hematology (2014-2017), and member of the World Health Organization Clinical Advisory Committee (2014-2017). She is currently a member of the National Cancer Policy Forum of the Institute of Medicine, the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society, and the Board of Scientific Advisors of the National Cancer Institute.

Her professional honors include the Virginia Evans Award from the Midwestern Branch of the Tissue Culture Association (1980), the Stohlman Memorial Award from the Leukemia Society of America (1989), the Distinguished Service Award from the American Cancer Society (2008), and the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago (2018). Le Beau was a fellow (1983-1985), senior fellow (1985-1987), and scholar (1987-1992) of the Leukemia Society of America and received the Alison Eberlein Fund Award (1990).

Over the course of her exemplary career, Le Beau has published more than 500 peer-reviewed original articles, reviews, and chapters on cytogenetic and molecular genetic abnormalities in human leukemias. She earned her undergraduate degree in animal science-genetics from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in pathology from the University of Illinois Medical Center. Le Beau is board-certified in the area of clinical cytogenetics and is a founding fellow of the American Board of Medical Genetics.