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AACR to Recognize Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD, FAACR, with 2024 AACR-Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will honor Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD, Fellow of the AACR Academy, with the 2024 AACR-Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research during the AACR Annual Meeting 2024 to be held April 5-10 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.

Dang is the scientific director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Cancer Medicine at Johns Hopkins, professor of oncology and cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. He also serves as an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dang is being recognized for seminal contributions to elucidating the function of the MYC oncogene in regulating anabolic metabolism necessary for cell growth and proliferation. He is celebrated as the first scientist to conceptualize and demonstrate that genetic alterations in key oncogenes can lead to tumor metabolism reprogramming, which subsequently led to efforts to target cancer metabolism as a viable  therapeutic option. His discoveries have significantly impacted the acceleration of progress in cancer research, and his leadership and commitment to mentorship have fostered the careers of countless early-stage investigators in the cancer biology and metabolism fields.

The AACR-Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research was established in 2007 in honor of Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR, for her exemplary leadership of the AACR, and for her sustained, extraordinary dedication to the conquest of cancer through research, scholarly publications, communication, collaborations, education and training, fundraising for cancer research, and science policy. This award is presented annually to an individual whose leadership and extraordinary achievements in cancer research have made a major impact in the field.

Dang discovered early in his career that MYC can function as a transcription factor and possesses a leucine zipper motif that allows for protein-protein interactions. Dang then sought to characterize neoplasia-inducing MYC responsive genes. Through the use of representational difference analysis, he identified more than 20 such genes, including lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA) which is essential for lactate production. Dang showed that MYC-mediated cellular transformations are dependent on LDHA, a discovery that importantly linked oncogenic MYC signaling to the Warburg effect and aerobic glycolysis.

These early findings led Dang to further explore the relationship between tumor cells and hypoxia. On a molecular level, he demonstrated that hypoxia inhibits respiration through HIF-1 activation of pyruvate dehydrogenase 1 (PDK1), which stimulates lactate production while simultaneously blocking the use of pyruvate for mitochondrial oxidation, providing the first evidence that MYC and HIF-1 function collaboratively to govern cancer cell hypoxic metabolism.

Dang would continue this work by characterizing the role of MYC in ribosomal and mitochondrial biogenesis and in the regulation of non-coding RNAs involved in cancer onset and progression. These studies serve to highlight the importance of MYC in normal cell growth, proliferation, and metabolism, while also outlining how oncogenic MYC may deregulate anabolic metabolism in transformed cells by disrupting clock gene-mediated circadian oscillations.

Importantly, these landmark findings provided proof-of-principle evidence that targeting cancer metabolic pathways could represent a viable therapeutic avenue for patients. Dang has continued this work by investigating the mechanisms of resistance and immune system changes that arise from pharmacologic manipulation of cellular metabolism.

In addition to being honored for his magnificent scientific achievements, Dang is being recognized for his leadership in the cancer research community, including as scientific director at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. In this role, Dang oversees and coordinates all scientific strategy and daily operations for nine different research institutes located around the world to advance the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.  

His enduring ability to foster the development of diverse, interdisciplinary teams and unique collaborations has long propelled crucial scientific discoveries and improved patient care. Moreover, Dang is heralded as a committed mentor whose dedication to educating, training, and encouraging early-stage investigators to push the boundaries of their research has nourished not only countless careers, but also the greater cancer research enterprise.

“Dr. Dang is a remarkable scientist whose work has led to significant progress against cancer for the benefit of patients around the world,” said Foti. “His visionary leadership not only as a researcher, but also as a mentor and highly skilled administrator has contributed to the development of a strong, creative, collaborative community of cancer researchers. We are immensely proud to honor him with this award.”

Dang has been a member of the AACR since 1996 and was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2018. Throughout his time as an AACR member, Dang has been a valued volunteer and leader on numerous AACR committees and association groups, serving as a member of the AACR Education and Training Committee (2019-present); member of the AACR Special Conferences Committee (2020-2023); vice chair of the AACR Annual Meeting Program Committee (2019-2020); member of the AACR Annual Meeting Education Committee (2018-2019); cochair of the AACR Annual Meeting Program Committee (2016-2018); member of the AACR Finance and Audit Committee (2014-2017); member of the AACR Clinical and Translational Cancer Research Grants Scientific Review Committee (2012-2014); member of the AACR Nominating Committee (2012-2014); and member of the AACR Chemistry in Cancer Research Working Group Steering Committee (2010-2014).

Dang has also contributed to AACR’s publications program by serving as editor-in-chief of Cancer Research from 2018-2023 and as scientific editor of Cancer Discovery from 2010-2014.

He has been honored with many awards throughout his distinguished career, including the Karolinska Institute and George and Eva Klein Foundation Lecture and Medal (2021); The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Heath Memorial Award (2017); Johns Hopkins University Distinguished Alumnus Award for Scientific Achievement (2012); Vietnamese-American Medical Research Foundation Achievement Golden Torch Award (2005); Indiana University School of Medicine Distinguished Mark Brothers Award (2003); National Institutes of Health MERIT Award (1999); Leukemia Society of America Stohlman Scholar Award (1997); Leukemia Society of America Scholar (1992-1997); American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Award (1989-1992); and Henry M. and Lillian Stratton Foundation Award (1989).

Dang has also been elected to numerous national societies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2011), Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences (2006), Association of American Physicians (1997), and American Society for Clinical Investigation (1993). He served as chair of the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors and as a member of the U.S. Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel.

Dang earned his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his doctoral degree at Georgetown University. He completed his internship and residency at Johns Hopkins before pursuing a fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.

The date, time, and title of Dang’s award lecture will be announced prior to the AACR Annual Meeting 2024.

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