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Cancer research award to Johns Hopkins basic scientist

Joshua T. Mendell, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist, is the recipient of the 30th annual American Association for Cancer Research Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research. The award is for his work to advance the understanding of microRNAs (miRNAs), genetic signaling elements involved in gene "silencing," which are important for normal physiology and diseases such as cancer.

The award, which comes with a $5,000 cash prize, was presented during the 101st annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, at which Mendell delivered a lecture, "MicroRNA Reprogramming in Cancer: Mechanisms and Therapeutic Opportunities." His recent research demonstrates that the delivery of microRNAs to cancer cells represents a promising strategy for cancer therapy.

"To be included among the incredible past recipients of this award many of whom I view as scientific role models is truly humbling and very exciting," Mendell says. "This recognition suggests that our work has addressed important scientific questions that have had a broad impact on the cancer research community, and provides inspiration to continue to investigate fundamental questions in cancer biology."

Mendell's research focuses on short pieces of RNA that do not encode protein but control genes. These small molecules can act as either cancer-driving oncogenes or as tumor-suppressor genes, which prevent cells from becoming cancerous. Mendell's laboratory is studying microRNAs in human cells and in animals such as zebrafish and mice to understand how aberrant miRNA activity contributes to cancer and to develop miRNA-based therapeutic strategies.

Mendell earned both his medical degree (2003) and a Ph.D. (2001) at Johns Hopkins before starting his lab there. He has received a number of awards and recognitions, including being named the Outstanding Young Scientist in the State of Maryland (Allan C. Davis Medal), 2007; a "Top Young Investigator of 2007" by Genome Technology Magazine, 2007; a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar, 2008; and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist, 2009.

"We are proud that the AACR has chosen to recognize Josh for his outstanding work," says David Valle, M.D., the Henry J. Knott Professor and Director of the Institute for Genetic Medicine. "The microRNA field has really taken off, and Josh has been there to set the bar."

This year's AACR meeting, themed "Conquering Cancer Through Discovery Research," highlighted novel approaches and technologies being used in the laboratory, innovative preclinical science and clinical trials. As the premier scientific meeting in cancer research, it attracts over 17,000 attendees annually and covers the breadth of cancer science from basic through clinical and epidemiological research.

"AACR member scientists are making great strides in basic, translational and clinical research, as well as population science and prevention," says Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D., chief executive officer of the AACR. "Their work is having an enormous impact on the pace of discovery. We are extremely proud to honor their outstanding work because these achievements are saving lives around the world."


Contact: Maryalice Yakutchik
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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