American Association for Cancer Research Honors Award Recipients at Annual Meeting

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The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) named the following as recipients of awards at the recent Annual Meeting.

Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research

Hagop Kantarjian, MD, Chair and Professor in The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Department of Leukemia, was honored for clinical research excellence at the AACR Annual Meeting.

Dr. Kantarjian was presented the 18th Annual AACR Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be in the company of great men and women who, by their dedication to clinical research, have made seminal discoveries that have led to seismic changes in our understanding of cancer biology and therapeutics,” Dr. Kantarjian said.

As a clinician and clinical researcher, Dr. Kantarjian has contributed to multiple improvements in the treatment of leukemia patients, including the development and testing of  first- and second-generation BCR-ABL inhibitors; combination therapies for acute lymphocytic leukemia and the single agent clofarabine, approved for ALL in 2005. Dr. Kantarjian’s work also contributed to FDA approval of ruxolitinib for myelofibrosis, the first approved treatment for the disease and the first to target the JAK2 protein. All clinical trials for the drug were led at MD Anderson.

“As with many individual awards, this honor reflects the efforts and accomplishments of MD Anderson’s Department of Leukemia, which includes outstanding investigators across the full spectrum of leukemia,” Dr. Kantarjian said.

Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship

Gabriel Hortobagyi, MD, Professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, received the Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship from AACR and its Minorities in Cancer Research membership group.

Dr. Hortobagyi is internationally recognized for his clinical and translational contributions to the field of breast cancer research. “I’m humbled by the AACR and their Minorities in Cancer Research colleagues. To be recognized for furthering the advancement of minority investigators in cancer research is truly an honor -- all of us share a mutual dedication to breast cancer care and feel that there has never been a more exciting time for the field,” Dr. Hortobagyi said. “I had the distinct pleasure of knowing Jane Cooke Wright. Her myriad scientific contributions and unwavering commitment to mentoring young scientists, especially African American women, are still impactful in cancer research and the community at large.” 

Dr. Hortobagyi, who holds the Nellie B. Connally Chair in Breast Cancer, is the past-chair of the Department of Breast Medical Oncology and has been a member of MD Anderson’s faculty since 1976. He is widely recognized for developing combined therapies for previously inoperable breast tumors, improving multidisciplinary treatment for patients with all stages of the disease and conducting clinical trials to develop treatment regimens that have become standard practices for managing breast cancer.

Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship

AACR named Guillermina “Gigi” Lozano, PhD, as recipient of the 16th annual Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship, recognizing her contributions to the field of cancer research and the advancement of women in science.  Dr. Lozano is Chair and Professor in the Department of Genetics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Dr. Lozano is a pioneer in understanding the p53 tumor suppressor pathway. Her lab at MD Anderson was the first to establish p53 as a transcriptional activator of other genes. Their landmark study published in Science in 1989 identified a p53 transactivation domain and showed that p53 mutants failed to activate transcription, paving the way for important discoveries regarding its mechanism in the development of numerous cancers including breast, colon, lung and ovarian cancer.  

Dr. Lozano credits the mentorship of Arnold Levine, PhD, her postgraduate advisor at Princeton University and the discoverer of p53, and Peter Mueller of the Max Planck Institute for their guidance early in and throughout her career. “Their invaluable perspective has driven me to reach for goals I might never have dreamed of,” Dr. Lozano said. ■