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Dr. Charles L. Sawyers Honored With 2019 AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship

PHILADELPHIA: The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will honor Charles L. Sawyers, MD, FAACR, with the AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship at the AACR Annual Meeting 2019, to be held in Atlanta, March 29-April 3.

Sawyers is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and professor of medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He is being recognized for his work on cancer drug resistance mechanisms, specifically those involving the tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib (Gleevec) in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and in prostate cancer patients with resistance to hormone therapy (castration resistance).

This lectureship honors Sawyers’ critical role in developing molecularly targeted cancer therapies for the treatment of two diseases: CML and metastatic prostate cancer. His pioneering research into identifying treatments for cancers that have become resistant to established therapies has led to the development of dasatinib (Sprycel) for patients with imatinib-resistant CML and enzalutamide (Xtandi) and apalutamide (Erleada) for metastatic prostate cancer.

He will present his award lecture on Monday, April 1, from 5:15-6 p.m. in Georgia Ballroom 2, Building C of the Georgia World Congress Center.

“Dr. Sawyers is a highly esteemed physician-scientist, and we are delighted to recognize his exceptional body of translational and clinical research,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His groundbreaking discoveries have provided deep insight into the mechanisms of drug resistance and have led to the development of new molecularly targeted therapies that are benefiting countless patients worldwide. He is greatly deserving of this prestigious accolade.”

The AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship, now in its 13th year, is awarded to a scientist whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of cancer, and who embodies the dedication of the princess to multinational collaborations. Her Imperial Highness Princess Kikuko Takamatsu was instrumental in promoting cancer research and encouraging cancer scientists. She became a champion for these causes following her mother’s death from bowel cancer in 1933 at the young age of 43.

Sawyers is a world-renowned researcher whose career has focused on developing molecularly targeted therapies, initially for the treatment of CML. Following the clinical success of imatinib, Sawyers discovered that patients develop resistance through mutations in the BCR-ABL kinase domain, then collaborated with scientists at Bristol-Myers Squibb to develop dasatinib, a new cancer drug capable of overcoming imatinib resistance in select patients. More recently, Sawyers has focused his effort on targeting the androgen receptor (AR) in prostate cancer based on preclinical work from his group showing that increased AR expression is the primary driver of castration resistance. He co-discovered two AR antagonists, enzalutamide and apalutamide, both of which received FDA approval based on clinical benefit demonstrated in randomized phase III clinical trials in men with castration-resistant prostate cancer.

An active AACR member since 1998, Sawyers is a past president of the AACR, a Fellow of the AACR Academy, chair of the AACR Project GENIE Steering Committee, and co-leader of the Stand Up To Cancer/Prostate Cancer Foundation Dream Team “Precision Therapy of Advanced Prostate Cancer.”

Sawyers’ scientific accomplishments have been recognized with numerous additional honors throughout his career, including the AACR Team Science Award (2015), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013), the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award (2011), the Dorothy P. Landon” AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research (2009), the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (2009), the Emil J Freireich Award for Clinical Research (2007), the AACR David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award (2005), the AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award (2005), the Freedom-to-Explore Research Award in Cancer (2003), the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award (2001), and the Stohlman Scholar Award (2000). Additionally, he is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Sawyers received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and completed his medical degree at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Before joining Memorial Sloan Kettering, Sawyers was a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California in Los Angeles.