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American Association for Cancer Research Announces Distinguished Public Service Award Recipients

PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will present Distinguished Public Service Awards to four people whose extraordinary work has exemplified the AACR’s mission to prevent and cure all cancers through research, education, communication, collaboration, science policy, advocacy, and funding for cancer research.

Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD; Douglas R. Lowy, MD, FAACR; Yoshiyuki Majima, PhD, MPH; and Patricia Spears, BS, will receive awards that recognize their groundbreaking, innovative work in the cancer research community that reflect a wide range of contributions. This year’s award recipients are being honored for their meritorious work in clinical research, scientific leadership, and cancer policy and advocacy, respectively.

“The AACR is extremely proud to present Distinguished Public Service Awards to four highly accomplished individuals whose selfless dedication to cancer research and patient advocacy has had a tremendous impact on countless cancer patients, survivors, and their families,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The exceptional efforts of this year’s award recipients have accelerated the pace of progress against cancer. We extend our sincerest congratulations on their special recognition by the AACR and our thanks for their outstanding contributions to the field.”

This year’s winners:

Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, will receive the 2020 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his sustained, outstanding leadership in cancer science policy for the AACR. This includes his exceptional stewardship as chair of the AACR Tobacco Products and Cancer Subcommittee, a position that he has held since the subcommittee’s inception in 2009. Additionally, Herbst provides invaluable input as a member of the AACR’s Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee and its Regulatory Science and Policy Subcommittee, and represents the AACR in joint initiatives with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Herbst, who currently serves as Ensign Professor of Medicine, chief of Medical Oncology, and associate cancer center director for Translational Research at the Yale Cancer Center, has personally seen the ravages of tobacco products throughout his career as a nationally recognized leader in lung cancer research and treatment. Herbst’s passion on this topic has driven the Tobacco Products and Cancer Subcommittee to consistently educate policymakers, scientists, physicians, and members of the public about the harms caused by tobacco products and addiction.

Herbst tirelessly advocates for strong tobacco control policies and regulations and embodies the AACR’s goal to advance research to eliminate cancer incidence and mortality due to tobacco use. Herbst’s tobacco policy sessions at AACR Annual Meetings and participation in AACR congressional briefings play a crucial role in driving national tobacco policy changes.

In addition, Herbst was recently elected to serve as a member of the Board of Directors for the 2020-2023 term. He has served as chair (2016–2017) and vice chair (2012–2015), Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee; cochair, AACR-IASLC Joint Conference on Molecular Origins of Lung Cancer: Biology, Therapy, and Personalized Medicine (2012); senior editor, Clinical Cancer Research (2009–2015); and cochair, AACR Annual Meeting Program Committee (2008–2009).

Herbst has served on the following AACR committees: June L. Biedler Prize for Cancer Journalism Committee, AACR Cancer Progress Report Steering Committee, Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee, ASCO/AACR Workshop on Methods in Clinical Cancer Research, Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research Committee, Cancer Patient Tobacco Use Assessment Task Force, Clinical and Translational Cancer Research Award Committee, Clinical Research and Experimental Therapeutics Awards Committee, Phase I, II, and III Adult Clinical Trials Section of the Clinical Research Program Subcommittee, and Special Conferences Committee.

Herbst earned his undergraduate and two master’s degrees from Yale University. He earned a third master’s degree from Harvard University, and received his PhD in molecular cell biology from Rockefeller University. Herbst received his medical degree from Cornell University.  

Douglas R. Lowy, MD, FAACR, will receive the 2020 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership of the NCI during his tenure as the acting director. Lowy currently serves as the principal deputy director and chief of the Laboratory of Cellular Oncology within the Center for Cancer Research at the NCI.

As acting director of the NCI from April 2015 to October 2017, Lowy provided critical national leadership to advance the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative that Vice President Joe Biden spearheaded during the final year of the Obama administration. He served a second term as acting NCI director from January 2019 to November 2019. In his current role as principal deputy director, Lowy continues to help lead the NCI’s key scientific initiatives.

Lowy is best known for helping to develop the technology underlying most human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. For his work on HPV vaccines, Lowy and his collaborator John T. Schiller, PhD, received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award in 2017.

Notably, Lowy was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2015. He received the Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research in 2009. He served on the AACR Research Grant Review Committee in 2009-2010.

Lowy earned his bachelor’s degree from Amherst University and received his medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine. Lowy trained in internal medicine at Stanford University and dermatology at Yale University.

Yoshiyuki Majima, PhD, MPH, will receive the 2020 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership in patient advocacy, education, and support through the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Japan (PanCAN Japan).

Majima founded PanCAN Japan in 2006 after his sister’s death from pancreatic cancer. The organization has since grown to become the largest support organization for pancreatic cancer patients in Japan. Under Majima’s exceptional guidance, PanCAN Japan has set an ambitious mission to advance research, create clinical trial awareness, stimulate faster drug approvals, support patients, and offer hope to patients through service and advocacy.

One of Majima’s most notable achievements has been his effort to address the “drug lag” for first-line pancreatic cancer drugs imported to Japan. Under his leadership, more than 100,000 signatures were submitted to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. As a direct result of this action, the ministry reduced the approval time for imported drugs from six years to two years.

In addition, Majima, a graduate of the AACR’s Scientist↔Survivor Program  has been instrumental in launching and promoting a similar educational program  in Japan, building bridges and unity among leaders of the scientific, survivor, and advocacy communities. The program has been so successful in Japan, it was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Cancer Association.

Patricia Spears, BS, will receive the 2020 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of her longstanding advocacy for cancer patients and their loved ones and caregivers.

Spears has devoted her time and visionary leadership to more than a dozen initiatives, committees, and workshops with organizations such as the AACR, NCI, FDA, and others. These include the AACR Conflict of Interest Working Group, AACR Scientist↔Survivor Program, 2018-2019 AACR Annual Meeting Program Committee, the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, the NCI Breast Cancer Steering Committee, Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, NCI Core Correlative Science Committee, the FDA-AACR-ASTRO Clinical Development of Drug Radiotherapy Combinations Workshop, the FDA-ASCO Innovations in Breast Cancer Drug Development – Neoadjuvant Breast Cancer Workshop, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the Duke Cancer Institute cancer protocol committee, the ASCO Young Investigator Award Program, the University of North Carolina Lineberger Patient Research Advocacy Group, and the UNC Breast Cancer SPORE Advocates.

As a breast cancer survivor, Spears inspires clinicians and researchers by reminding them of the critical importance of the patient voice in treatment, communicating science and clinical research to the public, and facilitating the engagement of patients with basic and clinical researchers. Spears also urges patients to participate in clinical trials and has advocated for the incorporation of patient-reported outcomes into those trials.