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Lombardi Cancer Center's Toretsky awarded prestigious Burroughs Wellcome Fund Award

Jeffrey A. Toretsky, M.D., a pediatric oncology physician and researcher at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center has received a prestigious Clinical Scientist Award in Translational Research from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF). The $750,000 award, one of only 13 given in 2008, is "intended to support established, independent physician-scientists who are dedicated to translational research -- the two-way transfer between laboratory research and patient treatment -- and mentoring physician-scientist trainees."

According to the BWF, "The award provides the freedom and flexibility to explore scientific questions, apply the resulting knowledge at the bedside, and bring insights from the clinical setting back to the laboratory for further study."

Translational Research Awards provide $150,000 per year over five years.

"We hope these awards will lead to better understanding of the mechanisms of disease as well as new methods of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease," said BWF President Enriqueta C. Bond, Ph.D. "BWF particularly is interested in supporting physician-scientists who bring novel ideas and new approaches to translational research."

Toretsky actively pursues research that will lead to new and more specific therapies for Ewing's sarcoma, a solid tumor in bone or soft tissue that primarily occurs in children and young adults. Specifically, the focus of his research is to identify the molecular mechanisms of a gene mutated in Ewing's sarcoma, known as EWS-FLI1, and to develop therapeutic inhibitors against this protein to treat the disease.

"This award will significantly aid us in advancing our work in Ewing's sarcoma and I'm truly honored," said Toretsky. "Specifically, we'll use the award to accelerate our efforts in finding new treatments for this cancer by engaging a unique drug discovery laboratory at Georgetown."

The drug discovery program at Georgetown University Medical Center, led by Milton Brown, Ph.D, is uniquely positioned at the interface of chemistry and medicine to facilitate the translation of basic science towards new medical therapies.

"It's a privilege to work with Milt and a team of chemists and biologists to address a specific cancer problem," said Toretsky. "This kind of interaction is required to truly impact the progress of translational research and drug discovery. Ewing's sarcoma is rare, but our work has the potential to improve treatment not only for patients with this disease but for others who have cancers with similar molecular characteristics."

His sentiments were echoed by Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, who noted, "The collaboration between Jeff Toretsky and Milt Brown exemplifies the Lombardi's commitment to creating multi-investigator collaborations that focus on translational research. Their work will directly lead to the improved understanding and treatment of Ewing's sarcoma. Support from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund will provide critical resources to enable this important work."

Toretsky divides his time between clinical practice as a pediatric hematologist/oncologist and his research laboratory. In addition to Ewing's sarcoma, his clinical interests include rare pediatric hematology diseases and childhood cancers, in particular osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and synovial sarcoma.

Toretsky received his BS from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1984 and his MD in 1988 from the University of Minnesota. He completed his pediatric residency at the Medical College of Virginia in 1991, and his pediatric oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute Pediatric Branch in 1994. He came to Lombardi in 2002 from the Departments of Pediatrics and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Maryland.


Contact: Karen Mallet
Georgetown University Medical Center

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