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Rowley to receive Japan Prize for her role in the development of targeted cancer therapy
Date:1/24/2012

Janet Davison Rowley, MD, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago, will share the 2012 Japan Prize for Healthcare and Medical Technology with Brian J. Druker, MD, from the Oregon Health and Science University, and Nicholas B. Lydon, PhD, formerly with Novartis. They were chosen for their roles in the development of the first precisely targeted anti-cancer drug, called imatinib (Gleevec).

The three recipients, according to the Japan Prize Foundation's announcement on Jan. 25, "have made significant contributions to society by achieving momentous scientific and technological breakthroughs in creating and promoting new technologies for medical diagnosis and treatment."

They each will receive a Certificate of Merit, a Japan Prize Medal and an equal share of 50 million Japanese yen (approximately $215,000 apiece).

Imatinib is a highly effective leukemia medication with few side effects. Most conventional treatments for cancer have been based on their ability to kill rapidly dividing cells. The challenge has been finding a treatment that doesn't harm healthy cells. A series of discoveries enabled the prize winners to develop a more focused medication, designed to interfere with the specific proteins that cause rapid multiplication of the cells that cause chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), but without damaging healthy cells.

Rowley, Druker and Lydon were key players in a four-decade sequence of breakthroughs leading to the development of Gleevec. It began in the 1960s when two Philadelphia researchers Peter Nowell and David Hungerford found that patients with CML had an abnormally small chromosome 22 in their tumor cells, which was labeled the "Philadelphia" chromosome.

In 1973, using newly developed methods for visualizing segments of chromosomes, Rowley showed that chromosomes from CML cells did not lose genetic
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Contact: John Easton
john.easton@uchospitals.edu
773-795-5225
University of Chicago Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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