In This Section

Giusti, Pelosi, and Sawyers to Receive American Association for Cancer Research Distinguished Public Service Awards

PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will present Distinguished Public Service Awards to three individuals 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. Kathy Giusti, MBA, founder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and the Harvard Business School Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator; Nancy P. Pelosi (D-California), Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; and Charles L. Sawyers, MD, FAACR, world-renowned cancer researcher and AACR Past President, will each receive their awards virtually at the AACR Annual Meeting 2021.

“The AACR is extremely proud to present these Distinguished Public Service Awards to three highly accomplished individuals whose leadership and selfless dedication to scientific progress have helped countless cancer patients, survivors, and their families, both in the United States and around the world,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “We are grateful for their pioneering contributions to cancer research and biomedical science and look forward to celebrating them at the AACR Annual Meeting 2021.”

This year’s recipients are:

Kathy Giusti, MBA, will receive the 2021 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of her extraordinary, steadfast, and inspirational leadership as the founder and chief mission officer of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) and cochair of the Harvard Business School Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator. 

Giusti, a 25-year multiple myeloma survivor, is recognized as a pioneer in precision medicine, having seen its vast potential in oncology and other diseases. She uses her patient experience and business acumen to drive science faster with innovative models across patient registries, big data, clinical trials, and venture. Under Giusti’s leadership, the MMRF has raised more than $500 million to advance research and has played a significant role in bringing 15 new treatments to market and tripling patient survival.

As founder of the HBS Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator, Giusti worked with more than 300 leaders from throughout the healthcare ecosystem to identify and share best practices for advancing precision medicine. She created the Playbook for Cures to help all disease organizations accelerate science. The HBS Kraft Accelerator Leadership Forum brings together C-level nonprofit leaders to focus on the most significant challenges facing medicine today.

Giusti has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and was ranked #19 on Fortune’s list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Over the course of her career, Giusti has been appointed to multiple panels, including the National Cancer Advisory Board, the Obama Precision Medicine Initiative, and the Biden Moonshot.

U.S. Rep. Nancy P. Pelosi (D-California) will receive the 2021 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of her leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives as a champion for science-related issues. Throughout her distinguished congressional career and now as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Pelosi has consistently advocated for robust, sustained, and predictable annual funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

In addition, her support for the $10 billion the NIH received in 2010 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was extremely important to funding the science necessary to improve public health and save lives from the myriad of diseases faced by individuals all over the world, including cancer.

During a keynote address at the virtual AACR Annual Meeting 2020, Pelosi reaffirmed her support of medical research by stating that one of her proudest moments while serving as a member of the House Appropriations Committee was “helping to secure the doubling of the NIH budget to give researchers and scientists the tools to create modern medical miracles.” She also remarked on the need for greater access to effective cancer treatments for all Americans.

Charles L. Sawyers, MD, FAACR, will receive the 2021 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his dedication to advancing precision medicine by conceptualizing, then leading, AACR Project GENIE (Genomics Evidence Neoplasia Information Exchange) through the formative years of the project. Sawyers envisioned AACR Project GENIE as an international, pancancer registry of real-world data, built through data sharing among participating institutions, with the goals of powering precision oncology and clinical decision making, while remaining dedicated to open science and collaboration.

As a result of Sawyers’ leadership and guidance as chair of the AACR Project GENIE executive and steering committees, the most recent public data release contained nearly 113,000 sequenced samples from more than 104,000 patients treated at 19 participating institutions, making the AACR Project GENIE registry among the largest fully public cancer genomic data sets released to date.

Outside of his work with AACR Project GENIE, Sawyers is a world-renowned physician-scientist and leader in the development of targeted therapies for cancer. He played a critical role in developing the molecularly targeted cancer drug imatinib (Gleevec) for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. Sawyers’ research into treatments for cancer that becomes resistant to established therapies led to the development of dasatinib (Sprycel) for patients with imatinib-resistant chronic myeloid leukemia and enzalutamide (Xtandi) for metastatic prostate cancer that has become resistant to docetaxel.

Sawyers is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He also holds the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Chair in Human Oncology and Pathogenesis and is chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Sawyers served as AACR President from 2013-2014 and was elected to the 2014 class of Fellows of the AACR Academy. Last year, he was elected by the Fellows of the AACR Academy as the AACR Academy President-Elect for 2020–2021. He will assume the Presidency of the AACR Academy at the AACR Annual Meeting 2021.