publication date: Jun. 26, 2020

AACR Briefs

David A. Tuveson elected AACR president-elect for 2020-2021

David A. Tuveson, was elected president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research for 2021-22 by the members of the AACR.

He became president-elect on April 29, 2020, during the AACR’s Business Meeting of Members and will assume the presidency in April 2021 at the AACR annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Tuveson is director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center, where he is also the Roy J. Zuckerberg Professor of Cancer Research. He is chief scientist for the Lustgarten Foundation, the largest pancreatic cancer research philanthropy.

Tuveson is a medical staff affiliate at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and also works closely with the Cancer Institute at Northwell Health. He serves on the Board of Scientific Advisors of the NCI. His basic and translational research focuses on increasing our understanding of the biology of pancreatic cancer and on identifying and testing in preclinical and clinical settings new approaches for diagnosing and treating the disease.


James R. Downing receives inaugural AACR-St. Baldrick’s Foundation award for pediatric cancer research

James R. Downing, CEO of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, received the inaugural award of the American Association for Cancer Research-St. Baldrick’s Foundation for outstanding achievement in pediatric cancer research.

Downing also holds the Donald Pinkel Chair of Childhood Cancer Treatment and is the director of the Molecular Pathology Laboratory at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The AACR-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Pediatric Cancer Research was established in 2019 to recognize major research discoveries in pediatric cancer research and to honor an individual who has significantly contributed to any area of pediatric cancer research, resulting in the fundamental improvement of the understanding and/or treatment of pediatric cancer.

The award recipient receives the opportunity to nominate junior faculty at the assistant professor level or equivalent, who are affiliated with an academic institution involved in cancer research, cancer medicine, or cancer-related sciences, to be considered to receive a one-year, $75,000 AACR-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Pediatric Cancer Research Fellowship.

Downing’s group published one of the earliest gene expression studies classifying pediatric cancer and demonstrating that subsets of acute lymphoblastic leukemia can be defined by unique gene expression profiles. These findings drove the formation of the St. Jude-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project. This effort led to the genomic sequencing of nearly 2,000 pediatric cancer patients, resulting in the identification of genetic driver mutations not previously linked to cancer onset and progression.


TCGA founding members and project team receive AACR 2020 Team Science Awards

The founding members and the current project team associated with The Cancer Genome Atlas Project received the 2020 AACR Team Science Awards.

TCGA founders and project team received the award during the AACR Virtual annual meeting II.

AACR is honoring the contributions of Anna D. Barker, chief strategy officer at the Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine, University of Southern California, and former NCI principal deputy director, and Francis S. Collins, director of NIH, who were directly responsible for the project’s inception and establishment.

Also recognized with this award are past NCI Directors Andrew C. von Eschenbach, and John E. Niederhuber, whose leadership throughout the years of the TCGA pilot project helped with the financial stability of the project. Eric S. Lander, and Leland H. Hartwell, are recognized for their efforts associated with the establishment of the initial TCGA pilot project, specifically their contributions as co-chairs of the National Cancer Advisory Board’s Working Group on Biomedical Technology.

Also being recognized with this award are 34 other individuals who contributed to the success of TCGA, including those who were, and some of whom continue to be, involved with various facets of the TCGA network including the TCGA Project Management Team, TCGA Advisory Committee, Cancer Genome Characterization Centers, Genome Sequencing Centers, Biospecimen Core Resource Center, and the Data Coordinating Center.

Click here for the full listing of recipients of the first 2020 AACR Team Science Award.

The second 2020 AACR Team Science Award is being presented to Jean Claude Zenklusen, and the 129 additional members of the current TCGA project team for their recent and ongoing efforts to functionalize the data generated by the project. Zenklusen has served as director of TCGA in the NCI Center for Cancer Genomics since August 2013 and continues to lead the evolution of the program.

The Cancer Genome Atlas Project began in 2006 as a joint effort between NCI and the National Human Genome Research Institute, bringing together researchers from diverse disciplines and institutions to create a detailed catalog of genomic changes associated with specific types of cancer.

The AACR Team Science Award was established by the AACR and Eli Lilly and Co. in 2007 to acknowledge how interdisciplinary teams enhance the understanding of cancer and/or the translation of research discoveries into clinical cancer applications.


Jedd D. Wolchok receives AACR-Joseph H. Burchenal Award for clinical cancer research

Jedd D. Wolchok received the 2020 AACR-Joseph Burchenal Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research.

Wolchok is the Lloyd J. Old/Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation and chief of Immuno-Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He also serves as director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK, associate director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy, and professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Wolchok is recognized for his leadership in the groundbreaking clinical development of CTLA-4 antibody therapy for melanoma and for his pivotal role in ushering in the field of checkpoint inhibitor therapies for cancer.

The AACR and Bristol-Myers Squibb established this award in 1996 to recognize outstanding achievements in clinical cancer research. The award honors Dr. Joseph H. Burchenal, honorary member and Past President of the AACR, and a major figure in clinical cancer research.

Wolchok played a seminal role in developing ipilimumab (Yervoy), an anti-CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody that promotes the release of cancer-fighting T cells in the body. Wolchok led the pivotal phase III clinical trial demonstrating that treatment with ipilimumab and the chemotherapeutic dacarbazine yields superior overall survival in patients with metastatic melanoma compared with dacarbazine treatment alone.

Through his work with ipilimumab, Wolchok discovered differences in the kinetics of clinical tumor responses to immunotherapy and chemotherapy, which prompted him and his team to develop new criteria for evaluating treatment responses to immunotherapy. These criteria are now standard practice for immunotherapy trials.

After determining that ipilimumab is capable of promoting tumor regression in 20% of melanoma patients, Wolchok began designing and conducting clinical trials testing immunotherapy combinations, including the combination of ipilimumab and the PD-1 monoclonal antibody nivolumab (Opdivo), which was subsequently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for advanced melanoma in 2015.

In 2011, Wolchok founded the Immunotherapeutics Clinical Core at MSK, a program focused on novel immunotherapy phase I-II clinical trials expanding beyond melanoma.


Cigall Kadoch receives AACR Award for basic cancer research

Cigall Kadoch received the 2020 AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Basic Cancer Research.

Kadoch is assistant professor of pediatric oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and an Institute Member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

She is being recognized for her pioneering biochemical and functional characterization of normal and aberrant SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes and her elucidation of the mechanisms by which the disruption of these complexes contributes to over one-fifth of human cancers.

The AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Basic Cancer Research was established by the AACR to recognize an early-career investigator for meritorious achievements in basic cancer research. The award is intended to recognize an individual who has not yet reached 46 years of age at the time of their award presentation.

Kadoch is known for her work involving the biology of ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes, which are groups of proteins that influence how DNA is packaged, thereby controlling when and how strongly genes are expressed.

In a landmark study early in her career, Kadoch discovered that more than 20% of cancers have mutations in genes encoding proteins that are part of mammalian SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes. Since then, the focus of her research has been on characterizing the role of each of the 29 potential subunits of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes in normal tissue development and defining how mutated forms of these subunits contribute to cancer development.


Lisa A. Newman receives AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship

Lisa A. Newman received the AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship from AACR.

Newman is chief of the Section of Breast Surgery at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medicine, and leader of the multidisciplinary breast oncology programs at the New York-Presbyterian David H. Koch Center.

Newman is receiving this award in recognition of her significant contributions to the identification of biomarkers for triple-negative breast cancer in African American and African women, and her dedication to mentoring students and trainees from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine and research.

The AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship was first presented in 2006. The lectureship is intended to recognize an outstanding scientist who has made meritorious contributions to the field of cancer research and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered the advancement of minority investigators in cancer research.


Patricia S. Steeg receives 2020 AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Lectureship

Patricia S. Steeg received the 2020 AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship.

Steeg, co-director of the Office of Translational Resources and associate director of the Center for Cancer Research at NCI, is being recognized for her groundbreaking research on breast cancer metastasis, including the discovery of the first metastasis suppressor gene and development of a clinical-translational program dedicated to investigating brain metastases of breast cancer.

The AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Lectureship was established in 1998 in honor of renowned virologist and discoverer of the Friend virus, Charlotte Friend, PhD, for her pioneering research on viruses, cell differentiation, and cancer. This lectureship recognizes an outstanding female or male scientist who has made meritorious contributions to the field of cancer research and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered the advancement of women in science.

Steeg is best known for research on breast cancer metastasis. In 1988, she discovered the first metastasis suppressor gene, nm23 (NME). Her work demonstrated that the previously unknown NME gene is commonly downregulated in cells with increased metastatic potential.

Steeg later cloned the NME family of genes and further characterized the biological and enzymatic activities of NME by conducting experiments in which she reintroduced NME into metastatic tumor cells. This innovative research has since helped to establish an entire field devoted to understanding the structure and function of metastasis suppressor genes.

Her research lab is working to study the composition and function of the blood-tumor barrier in tumor metastasis, while also identifying signaling pathways and molecular targets that exhibit the capability to mediate brain metastasis.


Benjamin F. Cravatt receives 2020 AACR Award for chemistry in cancer research

Benjamin F. Cravatt has received the 2020 AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research.

Cravatt, professor at the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and the Gilula Chair of Chemical Biology for the Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, is being recognized for major technical advances in activity-based protein profiling.

His methods exploit the power of chemistry to generate new tools and assays for the global analysis of protein activities. He has applied these tools to the identification of new targets and drug candidates for cancer treatment.

The AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research was established by the AACR and its Chemistry in Cancer Research Working Group in 2007, through the initial support of GlaxoSmithKline, to recognize the importance of chemistry to advancements in cancer research. The award is intended to recognize outstanding, novel, and significant chemistry research that has led to important contributions in basic cancer research, translational cancer research, cancer diagnosis, the prevention of cancer, or the treatment of patients with cancer.


Christopher I. Amos receives 2020 AACR-American Cancer Society Award for research in cancer epidemiology and prevention

Christopher I. Amos has received the 2020 AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention.

Amos, the Selzman Endowed Professor, director of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, and associate director of Quantitative Science at Baylor College of Medicine, is being recognized for his unique blend of expertise in biostatistics and bioinformatics, genetics, and cancer epidemiology.

Amos has leveraged these skills to expand upon emerging genomic technologies, making seminal contributions to the understanding of how genetic and environmental factors can cause complex diseases such as cancer.

The 2020 AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention was established by the AACR and the American Cancer Society in 1992 to recognize outstanding research accomplishments in the fields of cancer epidemiology, biomarkers, and prevention.

Amos helped develop novel and robust methods for the analysis of quantitative traits using variance components and strong linkage approaches for understanding the etiological basis of complex diseases such as cancer. The methods that Amos has developed are now widely applied and highly regarded, in part because they do not require genetic models to be specified.

He was the first author of a landmark paper in Nature Genetics that identified a region of robust linkage disequilibrium within 15q25 as a lung cancer susceptibility gene locus. This region encompasses the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes CHRNA3 and CHRNA5, which have a defined role in nicotine dependence and a hypothesized direct role in downstream signaling pathways that promote carcinogenesis.


Michael Karin receives 2020 AACR-G.H.A. Clowes Award for basic cancer research

Michael Karin, fellow of the AACR Academy, received the 2020 AACR-G.H.A. Clowes Award for Outstanding Basic Cancer Research.

Karin, distinguished professor of pharmacology and pathology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, is being recognized for unraveling the role of metabolic stress, inflammation, and immunosuppression in cancer by establishing the tumorigenic function of NF-κB in cancer progenitors and myeloid cells, and for explaining how inflammation and cancer are linked, laying down the basis for use of anti-cytokine and anti-inflammatory drugs in cancer prevention and treatment.

The AACR-G.H.A. Clowes Award for Outstanding Basic Cancer Research was established by the AACR and Eli Lilly and Co. in 1961 to honor Dr. G.H.A. Clowes, who was a founding member of the AACR and a research director at Eli Lilly. The award is intended to recognize an individual who has made outstanding recent accomplishments in basic cancer research.

Karin’s research establishes the relationship between chronic inflammation and cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. He discovered that members of the IL-6 family of cytokines are capable of activating oncogenic transcription factors such as STAT3, resulting in colorectal and liver cancer onset.


Michelle M. Le Beau receives AACR-Margaret Foti Award for leadership and achievements in cancer research

Michelle M. Le Beau has received the 2020 AACR-Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research.

Le Beau is director of the Cancer Cytogenetics Laboratory and Arthur and Marian Edelstein Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, a position she has held since 2004.

She is receiving the award in recognition of her leadership, direction, and strategic vision at University of Chicago Medicine.

Le Beau is an expert on the molecular analysis of recurring chromosomal abnormalities in human leukemias and lymphomas, the correlation of specific abnormalities with morphological and clinical features, and the development of risk-adapted therapy.

Through her work, she has been instrumental in deepening the understanding of the onset and progression of numerous hematological malignancies, including implicating deletions on chromosomes 5 and 7 as oncogenic drivers of therapy-related myeloid leukemias. Her current work focuses on the analysis of the genes on chromosome 5 that are involved in therapy-related AML; the development and characterization of mouse models harboring AML driver mutations; the identification of secondary mutations and genetic pathways essential to leukemogenesis; and the application of mouse models for preclinical testing of potential therapeutics.

The Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research was established in 2007 to recognize a champion of cancer research whose leadership and extraordinary achievements in cancer research have had a major impact on the field.


Barbara J. Wold receives AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation lectureship

Barbara J. Wold received the AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship.

Wold was recently appointed as the director of the Merkin Institute for Translational Research at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). She is also the Bren Professor of Molecular Biology and the principal investigator of the Functional Genomics Resource Center at the Beckman Institute at Caltech. Wold was previously the Beckman Institute director from 2001 to 2011.

Wold has used next-generation sequencing techniques to study RNA expression in mice. Wold was among the first to use deep NGS profiling, noting the expression of both known and not-yet-annotated genes and splice isoforms.

Wold helped found the L. K. Whittier Gene Expression Center and the Special Center for Biological Circuit Design at Caltech. In 2012, she founded the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Genomics.

The AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship was established in 2004 to acknowledge an individual whose outstanding scientific innovation and thought leadership has inspired creative thinking and new directions in cancer research. The recipient of this award is selected annually by the AACR President. Wold was chosen by Elaine R. Mardis, AACR president for the 2019-2020 term.


Luis A. Diaz receives AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award

Luis A. Diaz has received the AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Translational and Clinical Cancer Research.

Diaz is head of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology, Grayer Family Chair, and director of the Precision Intervention and Prevention Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Diaz also serves as an attending physician at Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases in New York.

Diaz is being recognized for pioneering novel applications of cancer genomics and circulating tumor DNA for early cancer detection as well as prognosis and recurrence prediction, and for his groundbreaking work involving immune checkpoint blockade in DNA mismatch repair-deficient tumors.

Diaz has focused his career on developing novel genomic approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. In landmark studies, he demonstrated the potential clinical utility of analyzing ctDNA to detect tumor mutations in the blood, showing that ctDNA could be used to not only track the emergence of mutations conferring therapeutic resistance in patients receiving targeted therapy, but also predict tumor recurrence after surgery.

He has also applied his expertise to expand the use of immunotherapeutics such as immune checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of patients with cancer. FDA approval of pembrolizumab for advanced MMR-deficient cancers arising in any location in the body was a direct result of Diaz’s research, which showed curative responses in the majority of metastatic patients with MMR-deficient cancers. Diaz is working to harness his cancer genetics knowledge to develop a “molecular Pap test” for the early detection of ovarian and endometrial cancers.


Tyler Jacks receives AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship

Tyler Jacks, fellow of the AACR Academy, received the the 2020 AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship.

Jacks is director of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, co-director of the Ludwig Center at MIT, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

He is being recognized for transforming cancer research and the development of therapeutic treatments through his advancement of genetically engineered mouse models and for his seminal discoveries related to oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, cell death, and immune system regulation of tumor progression.

He and researchers in his laboratory have engineered mice to carry mutations in many genes known to be involved in human cancer, including tumor suppressor genes such as Rb; oncogenes such as K-Ras; and genes involved in oxidative stress, DNA damage and repair, and epigenetic control of gene expression.

The AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship is awarded to a scientist whose novel and significant fundamental scientific work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of cancer, and who embodies the dedication of the princess to outstanding cancer research and advances that emanate from multinational collaborations.


Phillip A. Sharp receives award for lifetime achievement in cancer research

Phillip A. Sharp, fellow of the AACR Academy and Nobel Laureate, received the 17th AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research.

Sharp, an institute professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, is being honored for his body of groundbreaking and high-impact basic research, including his seminal co-discovery of RNA splicing.

For this discovery, Sharp was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with Sir Richard J. Roberts. This body of research fundamentally changed scientists’ understanding of the structure of genes, shaping our understanding of RNA biology and our knowledge of the genetic causes of cancer and other diseases.

After first describing the phenomenon of RNA splicing, Sharp’s work focused on elucidating the biochemical mechanisms of RNA splicing and mammalian transcription. Today, his research continues to enhance our understanding of RNA structure and function and has been particularly focused on defining the biology of small RNAs and other types of noncoding RNAs. Additionally, his research has led the emerging field of convergence science for many years, resulting in the generation of the first CAS9 mouse model, which has proven vital to in vivo screening experiments dedicated to identifying genes involved in metastasis. To date, Sharp’s career publications in peer-reviewed journals total more than 440.

Sharp’s scientific influence extends far beyond his research accomplishments and has informed public policies and funding decisions at the nation’s highest level. Additionally, he has been an inspiration and mentor to more than 90 postdoctoral fellows and almost 40 graduate students, many of whom are now preeminent scientists in their respective areas of expertise.

Sharp, an AACR member since 1986, was elected to the inaugural class of the Fellows of the AACR Academy in 2013 and has been Chair of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) Scientific Advisory Committee for more than a decade, leading the selection of 26 “Dream Teams” of top researchers and other SU2C research groups. The AACR is the Scientific Partner of SU2C. Further he served as program chair of the AACR’s Inaugural Special Conference in 1988. That conference, “Gene Regulation and Oncogenes,” has been characterized as a watershed meeting that stimulated novel, transformative thinking about the molecular biology of cancer.

Sharp co-founded Biogen and Alnylam, both of which have developed therapeutics including rituximab and obinutuzumab for lymphoma, natalizumab and peginterferon for multiple sclerosis, and the first small interfering RNA-based therapy for transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis.

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 they have been 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.


Herbst, Lowy, Majima, Spears, receive AACR distinguished public service award

Roy S. Herbst, Douglas R. Lowy, Yoshiyuki Majima, and Patricia Spears, received the AACR Distinguished Public Service Awards.

The awards recognize their groundbreaking, innovative work in the cancer research community that reflect a wide range of contributions. This year’s award recipients are honored for their work in clinical research, scientific leadership, and cancer policy and advocacy, respectively.

Roy S. Herbst received the 2020 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his sustained, outstanding leadership in cancer science policy for the AACR. This includes his stewardship as chair of the AACR Tobacco Products and Cancer Subcommittee, a position that he has held since the subcommittee’s inception in 2009.

Herbst is a member AACR’s Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee and its Regulatory Science and Policy Subcommittee, and represents the AACR in joint initiatives with FDA and NCI.

Herbst is Ensign Professor of Medicine, chief of Medical Oncology, and associate cancer center director for Translational Research at the Yale Cancer Center. Herbst’s research on the effects of tobacco has driven the Tobacco Products and Cancer Subcommittee to educate policymakers, scientists, physicians, and members of the public about the harms caused by tobacco products and addiction.

Herbst advocates for strong tobacco control policies and regulations and embodies the AACR’s goal to advance research to eliminate cancer incidence and mortality due to tobacco use. Herbst’s tobacco policy sessions at AACR Annual Meetings and participation in AACR congressional briefings play a crucial role in driving national tobacco policy changes.

Herbst was recently elected to serve as a member of the Board of Directors for the 2020-2023 term. He has served as chair (2016–2017) and vice chair (2012–2015), Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee; cochair, AACR-IASLC Joint Conference on Molecular Origins of Lung Cancer: Biology, Therapy, and Personalized Medicine (2012); senior editor, Clinical Cancer Research (2009–2015); and cochair, AACR Annual Meeting Program Committee (2008–2009).

Douglas R. Lowy received the 2020 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his leadership of the NCI during his tenure as the acting director. Lowy is the principal deputy director and chief of the Laboratory of Cellular Oncology within the Center for Cancer Research at the NCI.

As acting director of the NCI from April 2015 to October 2017, Lowy provided national leadership to advance the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. He served a second term as acting NCI director from January 2019 to November 2019. In his current role as principal deputy director, Lowy continues to help lead the NCI’s key scientific initiatives.

Lowy is best known for helping to develop the technology underlying most human papillomavirus vaccines. For his work on HPV vaccines, Lowy and his collaborator John T. Schiller, received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award in 2017.

Lowy was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2015. He received the Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research in 2009. He served on the AACR Research Grant Review Committee in 2009-2010.

Yoshiyuki Majima received the 2020 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership in patient advocacy, education, and support through the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Japan (PanCAN Japan).

Majima founded PanCAN Japan in 2006 after his sister’s death from pancreatic cancer. The organization has since grown to become the largest support organization for pancreatic cancer patients in Japan. Under Majima’s exceptional guidance, PanCAN Japan has set an ambitious mission to advance research, create clinical trial awareness, stimulate faster drug approvals, support patients, and offer hope to patients through service and advocacy.

One of Majima’s most notable achievements has been his effort to address the “drug lag” for first-line pancreatic cancer drugs imported to Japan. Under his leadership, more than 100,000 signatures were submitted to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. As a direct result of this action, the ministry reduced the approval time for imported drugs from six years to two years.

In addition, Majima, a graduate of the AACR’s ScientistSurvivor Program has been instrumental in launching and promoting a similar educational program in Japan, building bridges and unity among leaders of the scientific, survivor, and advocacy communities. The program has been so successful in Japan, it was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Cancer Association.

Patricia Spears, BS, will receive the 2020 AACR Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of her longstanding advocacy for cancer patients and their loved ones and caregivers.

Spears has devoted her time and visionary leadership to more than a dozen initiatives, committees, and workshops with organizations such as the AACR, NCI, FDA, and others. These include the AACR Conflict of Interest Working Group, AACR ScientistSurvivor Program, 2018-2019 AACR Annual Meeting Program Committee, the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, the NCI Breast Cancer Steering Committee, Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, NCI Core Correlative Science Committee, the FDA-AACR-ASTRO Clinical Development of Drug Radiotherapy Combinations Workshop, the FDA-ASCO Innovations in Breast Cancer Drug Development – Neoadjuvant Breast Cancer Workshop, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the Duke Cancer Institute cancer protocol committee, the ASCO Young Investigator Award Program, the University of North Carolina Lineberger Patient Research Advocacy Group, and the UNC Breast Cancer SPORE Advocates.

As a breast cancer survivor, Spears inspires clinicians and researchers by reminding them of the critical importance of the patient voice in treatment, communicating science and clinical research to the public, and facilitating the engagement of patients with basic and clinical researchers. Spears also urges patients to participate in clinical trials and has advocated for the incorporation of patient-reported outcomes into those trials.


AACR names fellows of the AACR Academy class of 2020

AACR has named its newly elected class of Fellows of the AACR Academy.

The mission of the AACR Academy is to recognize and honor distinguished scientists whose scientific contributions have propelled significant innovation and progress against cancer. fellows of the AACR Academy serve as a global brain trust in the cancer field, helping to advance the mission of the AACR to prevent and cure all cancers through research, education, communication, collaboration, science policy and advocacy, and funding for cancer research.

All fellows are nominated and elected through an annual peer review process conducted by existing Fellows of the AACR Academy and ratified by the AACR Academy Steering Committee and AACR Executive Committee. This process involves a rigorous assessment of each candidate’s scientific accomplishments in cancer research and cancer-related sciences. Only individuals whose work has had a significant and enduring impact on cancer research are considered for election and induction into the AACR Academy.

The members of the 2020 class of Fellows of the AACR Academy are:

Myles A. Brown, Emil Frei III professor of medicine; director, Center for Functional Cancer Epigenetics, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

For elucidating the role of steroid hormones and their receptors in promoting the onset and progression of various hormone-dependent malignancies and for the discovery of regulatory complex components such as the p160 class of transcriptional co-activators that facilitate the epigenetic regulation of steroid receptor activity.

Judith Campisi, professor, Buck Institute for Research on Aging, senior scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

For contributions to the understanding of the links between aging and cancer and for her research related to identifying the molecular mechanisms associated with cellular senescence, aging, and tumorigenesis that has defined the role of DNA damage and repair in genomic instability and premature aging.

Arul Chinnaiyan, director, Michigan Center for Translational Pathology; S.P. Hicks Endowed Professor of Pathology; professor of urology, American Cancer Society Research Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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.

Alan D. D’Andrea, director, Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers; director of the Center for DNA Damage and Repair, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Alvan T. and Viola D. Fuller American Cancer Society Professor of Radiation Oncology, Harvard Medical School

For pivotal contributions to the field of DNA damage and repair that have defined the specific defects responsible for the development of Fanconi anemia and for elucidating the role of nuclear protein complexes on chromatin remodeling, cell cycle checkpoints, and DNA repair.

Mark M. Davis, director, Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection, The Burt and Marion Avery Family Professor of Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine

For identifying the first T cell receptor genes responsible for the detection of foreign antigens, contributing to the characterization of T cell receptor variable regions and for developing imaging techniques capable of capturing interactions that occur at immunological synapses.

Gregory J. Hannon, director and senior group leader, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, professor of oncology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

For fundamental contributions to characterizing the role of cyclin-dependent kinases and small RNAs including microRNAs, piwi-interacting, and short-hairpin RNAs in cell cycle regulation, carcinogenesis, and drug development.

Rakesh K. Jain, A. W. Cook Professor of Radiation Oncology (Tumor Biology), director, E.L. Steele Laboratories, Department of Radiation Oncology, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital

For landmark studies describing and highlighting the relationship between the tumor microenvironment and surrounding vasculature and for his investigations involving antiangiogenic therapy to induce tumor vascular normalization that have resulted in improved survival rates for a number of solid tumors.

Maria Jasin, laboratory head, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

For illuminating the role of homologous recombination in maintaining genetic stability, demonstrating the crucial role of BRCA1 and BRCA2 in facilitating such genetic events and for proving that BRCA2 loss, coupled with aberrant p53 activity in breast cells, can result in replication stress and subsequent tumorigenesis.

Robert S. Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

For contributions in the field of drug delivery systems and for spearheading the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, generating synthetic polymer systems capable of facilitating controlled drug release as well as serving as platforms for the engineering of blood vessels, cartilage, and skin.

Bert W. O’Malley, Thomas C. Thompson Chair in Molecular and Cellular Biology, chancellor, Baylor College of Medicine, and associate director of basic research, Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine

For pioneering research focused on the understanding of molecular endocrinology, gene regulation, and steroid receptor biology that has revealed how intracellular hormones and cofactors function at the DNA level to regulate protein production, affect cellular function, and modulate cancer cell metastasis.

Drew M. Pardoll, professor of oncology, director of Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy; director of Cancer Immunology, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University

For enriching the understanding of tumor immunology and immunotherapy through his discovery of gamma-delta T cells and interferon-producing killer dendritic cells and for his contributions to developing GVAX and Listeria monocytogenes-based cancer vaccines.

Kornelia Polyak, professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

For dissecting the role of intratumor heterogeneity in breast cancer and metastatic disease to develop risk assessment and personalized cancer therapy models and for extensively characterizing the metastatic potential of polyclonal tumors compared to monoclonal tumors.

Peter J. Ratcliffe, Nuffield Professor of Clinical Medicine, director, Target Discovery Institute, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, director of Clinical Research, Francis Crick Institute

For his landmark, Nobel Prize-winning contributions to the understanding of the molecular responses to oxygen depletion, specifically the identification of oxygen sensing and signaling pathways that link hypoxia-inducible factor 1 to the availability of oxygen, which has proven to be critically important to the understanding of tumor initiation and progression.

Antoni Ribas, professor of medicine, surgery and molecular and medical pharmacology, University of California Los Angeles Medical Center

For his seminal clinical research contributions that have led to the development of pembrolizumab as the first-in-class approved anti-PD-1 immunotherapy for the treatment of melanoma, for his characterization of BRAF, CTLA-4, and MEK in cancer, and for deciphering the molecular mechanisms responsible for immunotherapeutic resistance, which have since fueled additional efforts to understand the relationship between the immune system and cancer.

Gregg L. Semenza, director, Vascular Program, Institute for Cell Engineering, C. Michael Armstrong Professor of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore

For his revolutionary, Nobel Prize-winning contributions to uncovering the molecular mechanisms of oxygen regulation within cells and for discovering hypoxia-inducible factor 1, critical for cellular adaptation to changing oxygen levels, which has had far-reaching implications for the treatment of numerous diseases characterized by low oxygen levels, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Charles Swanton, group leader, The Francis Crick Institute and University College London Cancer Institute, Thoracic Oncologist University College London Hospitals

For his innovative research focused on identifying molecular mechanisms of cancer evolution and its impact on drug resistance and patient stratification and for demonstrating the crucial biological connection between intratumor heterogeneity and clinical cancer biomarker efficacy.

David A. Tuveson, Roy J. Zuckerberg Professor of Cancer Research, director, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center

For his trailblazing contributions to establishing human pancreatic cancer mouse models, for developing preclinical and clinical therapeutic strategies for the disease, and for characterizing many of the barriers to successful pancreatic cancer treatment, including poor drug delivery and the presence of survival factors in the microenvironment.

Michael Wigler, Russell and Janet Doubleday Professor of Cancer Research, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

For his renowned contributions to cancer genetics and the establishment of genetically engineered animal cells and for first describing a role for the RAS gene family in human cancer and describing how point mutations are capable of activating the oncogenic potential of select genes.

Sir Gregory P. Winter, Master, Trinity College, professor emeritus, Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge

For Nobel Prize-winning scientific breakthroughs including the development of the first humanized antibodies, for establishment of refined phage display technology that has led to the development of adalimumab, the first marketed fully human antibody approved by the FDA, and for collective contributions to the generation of therapeutic antibodies for the treatment of various cancers and autoimmune diseases.


Charles L. Sawyers named AACR Academy president-elect

Charles L. Sawyers, chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, was elected president-elect by the fellows of the American Association for Cancer Research for 2020-2021.

Sawyers will assume the presidency during the 2021 AACR annual meeting.

As the AACR Academy president-elect, Sawyers will work with the other members of AACR Academy’s Steering Committee and other elected fellows of the AACR Academy to provide advice and counsel to the AACR leadership.

Sawyers investigates the signaling pathways that drive the growth and drug resistance of cancer cells. He played a critical role in developing the molecularly targeted cancer drug imatinib (Gleevec) for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia.

Sawyers’ research into treatments for cancer that becomes resistant to established therapies led to the development of dasatinib (Sprycel) for patients with imatinib-resistant chronic myeloid leukemia and enzalutamide (Xtandi) for metastatic prostate cancer that has become resistant to docetaxel.

In addition to serving as chair of HOPP at MSK, Sawyers holds the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Chair in Human Oncology and Pathogenesis and is an internist and hematologic oncologist.

Sawyers, an AACR member since 1997, was elected as a fellow of the AACR Academy in 2014. He served as the president of the AACR from 2013-2014 and as a member of the board of directors from 2003-2006.

Sawyers conceptualized AACR Project GENIE and has served as chair of the AACR Project GENIE Steering Committee since its inception in 2015. He received the AACR-Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship (2019); the AACR Team Science Award (2015); the Dorothy Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Medicine (2009); and the AACR-Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award (2005).

Sawyers was associate editor for the AACR scientific journals Cancer Research (2000-2004) and Clinical Cancer Research (2002-2006). Sawyers served as scientific editor for the AACR’s journal Cancer Discovery.


Steven A. Rosenberg receives AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in cancer immunology

Steven A. Rosenberg, fellow of the AACR Academy, has received the 2020 AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology.

The AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology recognizes an active scientist whose outstanding and innovative research has had a major impact on the cancer field and has the potential to stimulate new directions in cancer immunology.

Rosenberg is a senior investigator at the Center for Cancer Research, NCI, chief, Surgery Branch at the NCI, and professor of surgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Rosenberg is being recognized for his discoveries that led to the first effective cancer immunotherapy, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and the first adoptive cell transfer immunotherapies for both solid and blood cancers, including genetically modified T cells.

Rosenberg’s research established IL-2 as a growth factor for antitumor T cells in mice and humans, both in vitro and in vivo, and demonstrated that treating patients with metastatic melanoma with high doses of IL-2 could induce long-term tumor regression. These landmark discoveries led to IL-2 becoming the first cancer immunotherapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it has been used to treat patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma and metastatic melanoma since the 1990s.

Building on this work, Rosenberg pioneered adoptive cell immunotherapies by leveraging IL-2 activity to stimulate the growth of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) isolated from the tumors of melanoma patients. Reintroduction of these expanded TIL cell populations back into patients subsequently led to long-term tumor regression in many cases. Rosenberg and his team have since extended this approach and generated similar promising clinical results for breast, colorectal, and liver cancer patients. They also discovered that T cells are able to be genetically modified to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), and that these CAR-expressing T cells are able to target molecules expressed by tumor cells such as CD19 and may therefore be used to specifically target and treat chemorefractory CD19-expressing B-cell lymphomas. CD19-targeting CAR T cells have since been FDA-approved for this use and for the treatment of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia.


John E. Dick receives 2020 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research

John E. Dick, fellow of the AACR Academy, has received the the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research.

Dick is being honored for discovering and characterizing the mechanisms by which stem cells contribute to normal and leukemic hematopoiesis. He is recognized for his discovery of leukemic stem cells and for developing the first hematopoietic xenograft assay using human hematopoietic cells transplanted into immune-compromised mice, a technique capable of giving rise to distinct blood lineages.

Using this assay, Dick has developed xenograft models of human acute lymphoid leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, and chronic myeloid leukemia that have provided crucial insights into the onset and progression of such diseases.

Dick’s findings uncovered a gene signature of leukemia stemness that can be used to predict survival rates and response to treatment. In addition, this gene signature has provided actionable targets for drug development, led to the identification of preleukemic mutations in normal hematopoietic cells, and laid the groundwork for three drugs currently being tested in clinical trials.

The Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research was established in 1997 to annually recognize a scientist who has made a major scientific discovery in basic or translational cancer research. The awardee must be active in cancer research, have a record of recent noteworthy publications, and be conducting ongoing work that holds promise for continued substantive contributions to progress in the field of cancer.

Dick is the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology, a senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and an investigator at the McEwen Stem Cell Institute at the University Health Network in Toronto.

He is a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, and co-leader of the Acute Leukemia Translational Research Initiative for the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Dick has also served as a senior scientist in the Department of Genetics at the Research Institute of the Hospital for Sick Children.

Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.