I set out to determine what molecular changes drive malignancy, in the hope that this would lead to improved approaches to diagnosis and therapy.
—Bert Vogelstein, MD
Johnson & Johnson named Bert Vogelstein, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the winner of the 2015 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research for his breakthroughs in oncology research, which have spanned more than 2 decades and have formed the basis of modern cancer research.
Dr. Vogelstein was honored June 16 during a reception at the 2015 BIO International Convention in Philadelphia.
The award is named for Dr. Paul Janssen, one of the 20th century’s most gifted and passionate researchers. He helped save millions of lives through his contribution to the discovery and development of more than 80 medicines, four of which remain on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.
“Dr. Vogelstein’s work forms the paradigm for understanding how nearly all forms of human tumors arise and progress,” said Paul Stoffels, MD, Chief Scientific Officer and Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson. “His discoveries triggered a new wave of innovation in the field, resulting in transformational solutions for patients.”
Discoveries in Genetics and Biomarkers
Beginning in the 1980s, Dr. Vogelstein and his colleagues designed novel approaches to study the molecular basis of colorectal tumors and found that they result from the sequential accumulation of alterations in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. His group went on to discover many of the most important of these genes, such as TP53, the gene encoding the p53 protein, altered more often than any other gene across tumor types. Dr. Vogelstein’s work throughout the past 2 decades has continued to illuminate cancer genes and the pathways they control, guiding the current scientific revolution in genome-wide studies of tumors.
“Dr. Vogelstein’s groundbreaking research has transformed our understanding of cancer biology and holds the promise for new treatments based on cancer genetics,” said Craig Mello, PhD, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Chair of the Dr. Paul Janssen Award Independent Selection Committee. “His work, including examining genetic and biochemical events that initiate solid tumors, is widely applicable to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer and provides broad practical implications for patients with both hereditary and sporadic forms of cancer.”
Dr. Vogelstein is the Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics & Therapeutics at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Clayton Professor of Oncology and Pathology at Johns Hopkins University, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
“For me, this journey began with one of my first patients, a 4 year old with leukemia—a disease we knew very little about at the time. I set out to determine what molecular changes drive malignancy, in the hope that this would lead to improved approaches to diagnosis and therapy,” said Dr. Vogelstein. “I am honored to have my laboratory’s work recognized and to join the list of exceptional past winners of the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research.”
The winners of the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research are chosen by an independent selection committee of the world’s most renowned scientists. The Award, which includes a $200,000 prize, will be presented to Dr. Vogelstein at ceremonies in the United States and Belgium in September. ■