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AACR's Seventh Annual Landon Awards

PHILADELPHIA Scientists whose discoveries have led to fundamental advances in the science and treatment of cancer are the recipients of two prestigious international prizes offered by the Kirk A. and Dorothy P. Landon Foundation and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

The Kirk A. Landon-AACR Prize for Basic Cancer Research and Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research are among the largest awards in the world offered to cancer researchers from a professional society of their peers. Honorees for each prize receive an unrestricted cash award of $100,000 and present a scientific lecture at the AACR Annual Meeting, held this year from April 12-16 in San Diego, California.

This years winner of the Kirk A. Landon-AACR Prize for Basic Cancer Research is Arnold J. Levine, Ph.D., professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Natural Sciences, and professor of pediatrics and biochemistry at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Levine is recognized for his work in establishing p53 as a tumor suppressor, one of the body's most important defenses against many forms of cancer, and for his extraordinary contributions to our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer.

Arnold Levines seminal contributions to the discovery of p53 as a tumor suppressor gene and his work in identifying its anti-cancer mechanisms have profoundly influenced the way scientists study cancer, said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), AACRs chief executive officer. It is our great pleasure to honor this world leader in p53 research for his scientific accomplishments and his continued efforts to educate and mentor younger researchers interested in furthering this important area of molecular cancer research.

This years Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research is awarded to John Mendelsohn, M.D., president and professor of cancer medicine at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, for his pioneering translational research that led to the discovery of a new class of agents to treat cancer and for his landmark contributions to our growing knowledge of targeted cancer therapies.

The translation of John Mendelsohns research from the laboratory into clinical practice created a new paradigm for treating cancer, providing novel treatment options and life-saving alternatives to many patients living with cancer, Foti said. His dedication and leadership deserve the highest recognition and we are proud to honor John for his revolutionary work.

The Kirk A. Landon-AACR Prize for Basic Cancer Research

For nearly three decades, Levine has been at the forefront of molecular cancer research and is a leading authority on the molecular basis of cancer. Best known for his co-discovery of the p53 tumor suppressor protein, Levine has led the way in uncovering the actions of p53, its biological significance and its mode of regulation in normal and cancer cells. Based on the findings of Levine and his colleagues, the study of p53 has become a promising focus of basic cancer research. This work and the collaboration of many researchers has led to the realization that p53 is a pivotal tumor suppressor gene which is mutated or otherwise inactivated in a majority of human cancer cases, a fact that underscores its critical importance in preventing the development of cancer.

Furthering his study of p53, Levine discovered another piece of the puzzle with the identification of the Mdm2 oncoprotein as a potent inhibitor of p53. The milestone discovery of the Mdm2-p53 interaction has become, in recent years, a target for drug development studies across industry and academia. These efforts have yielded several promising small molecule candidate drugs that activate p53 in tumor cells through disruption of the Mdm2-p53 interaction, and are currently being applied in clinical trials as potential novel anti-cancer therapies.

The work of Dr. Arnold Levine has proven to be a cornerstone in our understanding of cancer on the molecular level, said Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D., professor in the department of systems biology, Harvard Medical School and chair of the Kirk A. Landon-AACR Prize for Basic Cancer Research selection committee. With the discovery of the p53 tumor suppressor came a heightened interest and renewed fervor in building upon this area of basic cancer research. Decades later, researchers are still uncovering new pieces to the p53 puzzle, and Dr. Levines influential thinking and trail-blazing work remain highly relevant to continued progress in molecular cancer research.

An AACR member of long standing, Levine serves on the AACRs Council of Scientific Advisors and is the program chair of AACRs upcoming meeting, Frontiers in Basic Cancer Research. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and served as chairman of the Institute of Medicines National Cancer Policy Board from 2000-2002. Levine has received numerous honors and awards, including most recently: the G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award from the AACR; the Bristol-Myers Squibb Freedom to Discover Award; the Award for Basic Research from the Surgical Society of Oncologists; the Jill Rose Award from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation; the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research; and the National Cancer Institutes Alfred Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics. He is also a member of scientific advisory boards at several cancer centers. Levine holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from Harpur College, State University of New York at Binghamton.

The Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research

Throughout his distinguished career, Mendelsohn has dedicated his research efforts to understanding how growth factors regulate the proliferation of cancer cells by activating receptors on the surface of the cells. Mendelsohn and his colleagues were the first to propose a new approach to cancer therapy by suggesting that blocking the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) could prevent cancer cell growth and reproduction.

Mendelsohn and his colleagues proved their hypothesis by producing an anti-EGF receptor monoclonal antibody that blocked receptor kinase activation and inhibited cancer cell growth. Mendelsohns findings ignited intense and continued interest in this area of clinical cancer research. Continued research on EGF receptors, carried out by Mendelsohn and numerous collaborators for almost two decades, proved the original demonstration that both inhibition of a growth factor receptor and inhibition of a tyrosine kinase could be useful approaches to creating new categories of anti-cancer agents.

The eventual landmark development of C225, the human chimeric version of the anti-EGF receptor monoclonal antibody, has changed the way some advanced cancers, including advanced head and neck and pancreatic cancers, are treated and it led to the 2004 FDA approval of cetuximab for treatment of advanced colorectal cancer. Today, there are more than 130 active clinical trials using C225 to treat 15 cancer subtypes and two non-cancer diseases.

Dr. John Mendelsohn had a hunch that paid off. When he identified an antibody against the EGF receptor in the early 1980s, he immediately forged ahead on the path to evaluate and develop this antibody as a treatment for tumors that expressed high levels of the receptor and relied on it for growth, said Stanton L. Gerson, M.D., director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and chair of the Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research selection committee.

While the path was arduous, as it often is for pioneers in cancer therapy, Dr. Mendelsohns hypothesis turned out to be spectacular, resulting in a new and effective treatment for many patients with non-small cell lung cancer and head and neck cancer. His work, perhaps the most important new development in cancer therapeutics in the past 20 years, has helped define the field of targeted and personalized therapy for cancer. Rarely does a single discovery have such impact in the field of cancer, Gerson added.

A distinguished AACR member, Mendelsohn served as the founding editor of Clinical Cancer Research, a bimonthly translational research journal published by the AACR, and has been a member of the editorial boards of numerous other scientific journals. He has authored more than 300 scientific papers and articles for journals and books, and serves as senior editor of the textbook, The Molecular Basis of Cancer. Mendelsohn has received a number of national and international honors in recognition of his career achievements, including most recently: the Dan David Prize in Cancer Therapy; the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal; the Bristol-Myers Squibb Freedom to Discover Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research; the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology; the AACR-Joseph H. Burchenal Clinical Research Award; and the Gold Medal of Paris. Mendelsohn earned his bachelors degree in biochemical sciences magna cum laude from Harvard College and received his M.D. cum laude from Harvard Medical School.

The Landon-AACR Prizes in Cancer Research were first presented in 2002 to promote and reward seminal contributions to our understanding of cancer through basic and translational cancer research. These distinguished scientific prizes are designed to bring heightened public attention to landmark achievements in the continuing effort to prevent and cure cancer through quality research.


Contact: Jennifer Ryan
American Association for Cancer Research

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