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Top cancer specialists receive ESMO awards

Lugano, 15 September 2010 -- The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) honors three eminent cancer specialists for their contribution to the advancement of medical research. The awards will be presented to Hilary Calvert, Alberto Costa and Bengt Glimelius at the 35th ESMO Congress, to take place from 8-12 October in Milan, Italy.

Dr Alberto Costa will be presented with the 2010 ESMO Award for his key role in the development of international guidelines for breast cancer and his ongoing commitment to the education of oncologists. This distinction is conferred on an ESMO member who has made an outstanding contribution to the development of oncology in Europe and who recognizes the importance of promoting oncology as a specialty within the international community.

Dr Costa's many achievements include participation in the famous Milan Trial (local control and survival in early breast cancer), in the St. Gallen Consensus Report, and the development of chemoprevention. Scientific communication has also been an important part of his work.

On the current standard of care for breast cancer patients in Europe, Dr Costa highlights "the European concept of multidisciplinary care, which makes treatment safer. Europe also has the advantage of public national health so there is less inequality than in other parts of the world". Last but not least, Dr Costa has supported various patient advocacy groups including the well-known 'Europa Donna' cancer coalition. "Patients nowadays are very aware and have a huge amount of information. Their participation in groups helps improve practice for example by helping us rewrite the 'informed consent letters' in a comprehensible language. Patients have also helped us to understand that oncologists need to improve their communications skills."

Dr Alberto Costa is currently the Coordinator of the Breast Surgery Unit at the Maugeri Foundation in Pavia, Italy, and Coordinator of the Canton Ticino Breast Unit, Lugano, Switzerland. Among other responsibilities, Dr Costa played a key role in the creation of the Italian School of Senology in 1984 and the European Institute of Oncology, also in Milan, in 1994. He has served as Secretary General of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and as a member of the European Commission's Europe Against Cancer programme. He is Editor-in-Chief of The Breast journal and a member of the editorial boards of various cancer publications and author of over 250 publications.

Dr Josep Tabernero, Chair of the ESMO Fellowship & Award Committee, comments that "Prof Costa is a leader in his field and has changed clinical standards, which made him the ideal choice for the ESMO Award."

The recipient of the 2010 Hamilton Fairley Award, Professor Bengt Glimelius, has focused his work on malignant lymphomas, gastrointestinal cancer, radiotherapy and psychosocial care. He has participated in several successful clinical trials, influencing today's standard of care. ESMO has recognized his achievements in all these areas by rewarding Prof Glimelius with the 2010 Hamilton Fairley Award which commemorates the founding fathers of medical oncology in Europe and is presented to candidates who are recognized for lifetime achievements in science and clinical/laboratory research. "His major scientific achievements lie within clinical research and in making a difference for patients through clinical studies" remarked Dr Tabernero.

Bengt Glimelius is professor in oncology at the Department of oncology, radiology and clinical immunology at the University of Uppsala and at the Department of oncology and pathology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. He is also responsible for the care of patients with gastrointestinal cancers at the University Hospital in Uppsala.

Prof Glimelius has been instrumental in the substantial improvements in locoregional control of rectal cancer through a systematic approach to all details in staging, treatment and long-term follow-up, especially in developing the 'Swedish Model' exploring the pros and cons of preoperative short-course radiotherapy. He has also helped the survival and well-being of metastatic gastrointestinal cancer patients by using systemic chemotherapy, as seen in randomized trials.

Prof Glimelius is a member of several scientific organizations and has been the principal investigator in several national and international clinical trials. He has published more than 480 research articles and chapters in different textbooks within the research areas. He has lectured at many international conferences, chaired several Consensus Conferences, official investigations, and is the Chief Editor of Acta Oncologica and member of the Editorial Board of several scientific journals.

"It is a great honor for me to receive the prestigious Hamilton Fairley Award. ESMO is an important and very active organization that facilitates the distribution of evidence-based knowledge and the exchange of ideas between basic and clinical scientists and clinicians", concludes Prof Glimelius.

The 2010 ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Professor Hilary Calvert who has long been involved in anticancer drug development. Prof Calvert is the Director of Anticancer Drug Discovery and Development at University College London Partners.

The 2010 award to Prof Calvert was given in recognition for his seminal work on the introduction of carboplatin as a major anti-cancer agent and the development of a dosing formula based on its pharmacokinetics and its subsequent clinical use in ovarian cancer. "Prof Calvert is undoubtedly an international leader in his field", highlighted Prof Ian Smith, Chair of the ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award, "and his work has benefited countless patients around the world." The ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award is attributed to either an international research team or individual who have demonstrated commitment to cancer research treatment. It is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline.

In recent years Prof Calvert has worked on a program of drug development aimed at the use of molecular pathology of human cancer to define targets and develop drugs aimed at these targets. His research into the role of PARP inhibitors is leading to many developments in oncology as well as a variety of other diseases.

"We are in what is often called the 'post‐genomic era'. This really means that we have amazing technologies that allow us to characterize gene expressions, mutations, translocations, etc., at an unprecedented rate. The excitement is that sometimes these are truly cancer specific changes and we can find or make drugs that exploit them. The challenge is that many of the most promising potential targets for drug design are regarded as intractable (or 'undruggable'). We need to develop techniques to approach these targets."

When asked which of his achievements has given him the most satisfaction, Prof Calvert replies: "This is hard to answer because there are so many more things to do. I think we achieved a good multidisciplinary team in Newcastle and established PARP inhibitors as a therapeutic class. However, I hope that the achievement that will give me the most satisfaction is yet to come!"


Contact: Vanessa Pavinato
European Society for Medical Oncology

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