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Tony Hunter, PhD, FAACR, Honored with 2022 AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) today announced that Tony Hunter, PhD, Fellow of the AACR Academy, will receive the 2022 AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research.

Hunter is American Cancer Society Professor and Renato Dulbecco Chair at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. He is being honored for the discovery of protein tyrosine phosphorylation as a common cellular mechanism capable of contributing to cellular growth and proliferation and, in some cases, the development of cancer. This discovery has since led to the development of over 50 tyrosine and serine kinase inhibitors and has firmly established a new class of targeted cancer therapies.

Following his seminal discovery that tyrosine residues in proteins are phosphorylated by specific kinases, Hunter has focused his research on dissecting the role of post-translational modification of proteins in controlling cell growth and proliferation. Because of Hunter’s innovative work, aberrant regulation of tyrosine kinases is now widely accepted as a critical hallmark of cancer.

Hunter identified one of the critical switches required to initiate normal cell proliferation and demonstrated that this tyrosine kinase switch is frequently and permanently activated in cancer cells. This groundbreaking work subsequently transformed the field of anticancer drug discovery, ultimately leading to the development of many effective tyrosine kinase inhibitors, such as imatinib, and their approval as first-line treatments for several cancers.

“Dr. Hunter’s pivotal research has revolutionized our understanding of cancer biology and has led to extraordinary progress in the improved care of patients with cancer,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “We are deeply grateful for his monumental contributions to cancer research and are proud to honor him with this special award.”

The AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was established in 2004 to honor individuals who have made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a collective body of work. These contributions, whether in research, leadership, or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer.

Hunter was elected to the inaugural class of Fellows of the AACR Academy in 2013. He previously received the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research (2018) and the Kirk A. Landon-AACR Prize for Basic Cancer Research (2004). Hunter has served as an editorial board member for the AACR journal Molecular Cancer Research since 2002. He has also served on the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research Committee (2013-2014), the AACR Special Conferences Committee (2006-2009), and the program committee for the AACR Special Conference “Ubiquitin and Cancer: From Molecular Targets and Mechanisms to the Clinic” (2008). Hunter was an investigator on the Stand Up To Cancer-Cancer Research UK-Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team from 2016-2020 and the Stand Up To Cancer Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team from 2009-2015. The AACR is the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer.

Hunter has been honored with many awards throughout his stellar career, including the Rell Sunn “Queen of Makaha” Award (2019); American Cancer Society Triumph Award (2018); Tang Prize for Biopharmaceutical Science (2018); Sjöberg Prize for Cancer Research (2017); Honorary Fellow, Christ’s College, Cambridge (2016); Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Professor, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (2015); BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine (2014); Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London (2014); Einstein Professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences (2013); Thomson-Reuters Citation Laureate (2012); Signal Transduction Society Honorary Medal (2011); Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research Award, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center-Jefferson Health (2011); Benvenuto Memorial Award (2009); Clifford Prize for Cancer Research (2007); ASBMB Herbert Tabor Lectureship and Award (2007); Robert J. & Claire Pasarow Award in Cancer Research (2006); Burnham Institute Service Award (2006); Daniel Nathans Memorial Award (2005); Wolf Prize in Medicine (2005); Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (2004); Prince of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research (2004); American Cancer Society Medal of Honor (2004); City of Medicine Award (2003); Sergio Lombroso Award in Cancer Research (2003); Keio Medical Science Prize (2001); J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine (2000); Feodor Lynen Medal (1999); Bristol-Myers Squibb Cancer Research Grant Award (1997); the Croonian Lectureship of the Royal Society (1997); Biochemical Society Hopkins Memorial Lectureship and Medal (1994); Gairdner Foundation International Award (1994); General Motors Cancer Research Foundation Mott Prize (1994); American Cancer Society Research Professorship (1992-2008); Associate Member, European Molecular Biology Organization  (1992); Katharine Berkan Judd Award, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (1992); American Business Foundation for Cancer Research Award (1988); National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award (1985); and Swann Prize for Biology, Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge (1965).

In addition to being a Fellow of the AACR Academy, Hunter is a member or fellow of the American Philosophical Society (2006), National Academy of Medicine (2004), National Academy of Sciences (1998), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1992), Royal Society of Arts (1989), and Royal Society of London (1987).

Hunter received his PhD from The University of Cambridge in 1969.