In This Section
Arul Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD

Arul Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD

University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Class of 2020

For demonstrating the presence of chromosomal rearrangements in solid tumors including the identification of the TMPRSS2-ETS family of gene fusions and for harnessing such discoveries to define novel underlying pathologies in prostate cancer as well as other epithelial cancers.

A leading figure in cancer research, Dr. Chinnaiyan demonstrated the presence of chromosomal rearrangements in solid tumors previously thought to only occur in blood malignancies and has made seminal contributions to precision oncology. He has made a significant impact on the understanding of the mechanisms of apoptosis, contributing to the identification and cloning of key mediators in the programmed cell death cascade including Fas-associated protein with death domain (FADD), FLICE/Caspase-8 and Death Receptor-3 (DR-3).   

Through his groundbreaking research, Dr. Chinnaiyan identified the TMPRSS2-ETS family gene fusions, which unraveled a novel underlying pathology for prostate cancer and other epithelial cancers. The finding represented the first highly prevalent recurrent gene fusion caused by a chromosomal translocation in a solid tumor. Specifically, the enhancer elements in the 5’ untranslated region of the TMPRSS2 gene led to the transcriptional upregulation of ETS-related gene (ERG) and ETS translocation variant 1 (ETV1), both found to be overexpressed in prostate cancer. This discovery was made using a bioinformatics approach to detect outlier genes in an aggregated tumor gene expression database called ONCOMINE, developed by his group.  TMPRSS2-ETS gene fusions are exquisitely specific markers of prostate cancer as well as the initiating driver alteration for this disease. Since their discovery in prostate cancer, a number of other common solid tumors have been found to have subsets that harbor recurrent gene fusions including lung cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer, among others.  Furthermore, he has contributed to the characterization of several prostate cancer biomarkers/targets including alpha-methylacyl-CoA racemase (AMACR), enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2), and sarcosine. Notably, he was instrumental in launching the Michigan Oncology Sequencing Program (Mi-ONCOSEQ), a comprehensive clinical precision oncology platform that includes sequencing DNA and RNA of metastatic cancers and normal tissue counterparts to identify oncogenic drivers.  This approach has served as paradigm for cancer precision medicine.   

Selected Awards and Honors 

2021 ~ American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Science of Oncology Award  
2020 ~ Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC 
2020 ~ American Society of Investigative Pathology Rous-Whipple Award 
2018 ~ Outstanding Investigator Award, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 
2014 ~ Elected Fellow, National Academy of Inventors, Tampa, Florida 
2014 ~ Elected Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Washington, DC 
2013 ~ Clifford Prize for Cancer Research, Centre for Cancer Biology, Adelaide, Australia 
2009 ~ Philip Levine Award for Outstanding Research, American Society of Clinical Pathology, Chicago, IL 
2009 ~ Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center 
2009 ~ Elected Member, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC 
2009 ~ Elected Member, Association of American Physicians, Chicago, IL 
2008 ~ AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research, AACR, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
2007 ~ The Ramzi Cotran Young Investigator Award, United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, Palm Springs, California 
2006 ~ Elected Member, American Society for Clinical Investigation, Chicago, IL 
2006 ~ The Benjamin Castleman Award, United States & Canadian Academy of Pathology, Palm Springs, CA