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Chinese scientists Zhen-Yi Wang and Zhu Chen awarded 7th annual Szent-Gyorgyi Prize

BETHESDA, Maryland (Feb. 6, 2012) The National Foundation for Cancer Research announced today that Dr. Zhen-Yi Wang and Dr. Zhu Chen have been awarded the 7th annual Szent-Gyrgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research for their innovative research that led to the successful development of a new therapeutic approach to acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).

By combining traditional Chinese medicine with Western medicine, Drs. Wang and Chen have provided dramatic improvement in the five-year disease-free survival rate of APL patients from approximately 25 percent to 95 percent making this therapy a standard of care for APL treatment throughout the world, and turning one of the most fatal diseases into a highly curable one.

"I am so glad to see that the efforts we have devoted to research on leukemia these last several decades have led to solid clinical benefits to APL patients around the world," said Dr. Wang. "This award will inspire us as we continue our efforts to find more effective therapies to treat cancers."

"This is a great honor for Dr. Wang and me; it is quite humbling to know that our respected colleagues from many scientific disciplines have selected us for this prestigious award," said Dr. Chen, who also serves as China's Minister of Health. "Scientists across the globe are working every day to cure cancer. I hope our work may continue to inspire others."

A clinical researcher at the Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai in the early 1980s, Dr. Zhen-Yi Wang performed the first successful therapy on APL patients using all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), which significantly increased the survival rate of patients with APL. Dr. Zhu Chen, a former student of Wang, made major contributions to the identification of the molecular mechanisms of both ATRA and arsenic trioxide in APL. He also demonstrated in clinical trials that arsenic trioxide, a compound used as a traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,400 years, is effective against APL. Since the 1990s, Drs. Wang and Chen have worked together to conduct clinical trials combining ATRA and arsenic trioxide to treat APL patients, with great success.

"Drs. Wang and Chen have quite literally changed the face of medicine for patients suffering from APL. Their combined work has saved countless lives and will continue to save many more lives around the world both today and in future generations," said Dr. Beatrice Mintz, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Chair of the 7th Selection Committee of Szent-Gyrgyi Prize and winner of the 6th Annual Albert Szent-Gyorgyi Prize. "Terminal differentiation of cancer cells has been an important focus in my research, and I am very happy about the successful clinical application of this principle by Drs. Wang and Chen. I cannot imagine a better testament to the outcomes of investing in cancer research than what these two distinguished scientists have achieved."

"In keeping with the spirit of nonconformity for which NFCR founder Albert Szent-Gyrgyi is known, the selection of Drs. Wang and Chen has a significant meaning for those who work in the trenches of cancer research each day," said Sujuan Ba, Ph.D., co-chair of the Szent-Gyrgyi Prize Selection Committee and chief operating officer of NFCR. "True scientific discovery comes from innovative ideas and dedicated research. These two scientists are inspirational, as they both have devoted their lives to this work that will impact the world for generations to come."


Contact: Silas Deane
Deane, Smith & Partners

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