ASCO Endows Young Investigator Award in Honor of Society Founder Jane Cooke Wright, MD

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For the first time in ASCO’s history, the Society has endowed its own Young Investigator Award (YIA), illustrating its continued commitment to investing in the future of cancer research. Ongoing support of this kind will ensure that the Conquer Cancer Foundation (CCF), ASCO’s philanthropic arm, is well equipped to continue funding the oncology leaders of tomorrow through a program that has helped jumpstart the careers of more than 894 physician-scientists. It is entirely fitting, therefore, that ASCO has chosen to name the YIA in memory of one of its seven founding members—the only woman among them—and a venerable giant in the field of oncology, Jane Cooke Wright, MD

This newly endowed Young Investigator Award pays tribute to Dr. Wright’s remarkable leadership at ASCO, her many contributions to the field of oncology, and her tenacity in finding a cure for cancer.
— Julie M. Vose, MD, MBA, FASCO

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“This newly endowed Young Investigator Award pays tribute to Dr. Wright’s remarkable leadership at ASCO, her many contributions to the field of oncology, and her tenacity in finding a cure for cancer,” said Julie M. Vose, MD, MBA, FASCO, Immediate Past President of ASCO. “Our endowment is a meaningful way for us, as a Society, to support rising leaders and promising investigators who are approaching their research with the same focus on patients and the quality of their care that Dr. Wright maintained throughout her inspiring career. We look forward to its recipients’ potential improvements and advances in cancer care for many years to come.”

Outstanding Accomplishments

A renowned researcher, mentor, and chemotherapy pioneer, Dr. Wright left an indelible mark on the oncology community. Upon graduating with honors from New York Medical College in 1945, she dedicated the next 40 years to cancer research and treatment and earned her reputation as a true trailblazer. Her successful career included many noteworthy titles and accomplishments, including head of the Cancer Research Foundation at Harlem Hospital at the age of 33; appointee to the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke by President Lyndon B. Johnson; highest ranked African American woman at a nationally recognized medical institution; and the first female president of the New York Cancer Society. She was instrumental in establishing ASCO as a new society during a pivotal time.

“Our mother devoted her career to scientific research and discovery; yet she maintained an ever-present focus on patients and the quality of their care,” said Dr. Wrights’ daughters, Alison W. Jones, PhD, and Jane W. Jones, MD. “She believed in the value of mentoring the next generation of researchers and inspired her students to approach their work with some of the same attributes that are a part of her permanent footprint on the history of cancer care—passion, ambition, and determination. ASCO’s endowment of the Young Investigator Award in her memory symbolizes the Society’s enduring support of the promising investigators and leaders to come, and she would be incredibly proud to be its namesake.”

Inaugural Recipient

During the 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting earlier this month, the CCF honored Srinivas Viswanathan, MD, PhD, with the inaugural Jane C. Wright, MD, Endowed YIA for his original research, “Exploring the Nonsense-mediated Decay Pathway as a Novel Cancer Vulnerability.” The long-term research interests of Dr. Viswanathan, who is currently performing his postdoctoral research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, lie in understanding how RNA splicing and RNA processing pathways are dysregulated in cancer and how they can be modulated for therapeutic benefit. In his YIA-funded study, Dr. Viswanathan will explore whether cancer cells—specifically those with a high burden of misspliced RNA transcripts—are more dependent on activity of the nonsense-mediated decay pathway than are normal cells. If successful, this work has the potential to implicate nonsense-mediated decay as a novel pathway that can be selectively targeted in certain cancers.

Three additional YIAs have been endowed to date in 2016: the Åke Bertil Eriksson Endowed Young Investigator Award, supported by Aaron and Barbro Sasson; the Anna Braglia Endowed Young Investigator Award in Cancer Supportive Care, supported by Helsinn; and a second Sally Gordon Young Investigator Award, supported by an anonymous donor.

The Foundation is grateful to the generous supporters who have contributed to a growing base of long-term support by endowing YIAs. It is the Foundation’s hope that this positive momentum will raise awareness of the opportunity to fund an even greater number of researchers who have the potential to accelerate the pace of discovery and, ultimately, improve global cancer care.

For more information about CCF’s endowments and funding opportunities, please visit ■

Selected portions reprinted from ASCO Connection and the ASCO Daily News. © American Society of Clinical Oncology. “ASCO Endows Young Investigator Award in Honor of Society Founder Jane C. Wright, MD”; “Dr. Srinivas Viswanathan to Receive Inaugural Jane C. Wright, MD, Endowed YIA” All rights reserved.