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Scientists honored for contributions to cancer fight

NEW YORK Nov. 19, 2008 The American Cancer Society the nation's leading voluntary health organization and largest non-governmental funder of cancer research and discovery will present its highest honor, the Medal of Honor, to four Americans who have made outstanding contributions to the fight against cancer. This year's winners, who will receive their awards at a ceremony during the American Cancer Society's annual meeting in New York City, are: The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy, United States Senator from Massachusetts, for Cancer Control; Mina J. Bissell, Ph.D., for Basic Research; Susan Band Horwitz, Ph.D., for Clinical Research; and Jon M. Huntsman for Cancer Philanthropy. The Medal of Honor, originally called the American Cancer Society Award, was first given in 1949.

Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy will be awarded the Medal of Honor for Cancer Control. Sen. Kennedy (D-Mass.) is one of the great champions in the legislative fight against cancer. Throughout his more than 40 years in the U.S. Senate, he has fought tirelessly for health care-related causes, from equal access to health care to increased funding for cancer research and early detection cancer screenings. By authoring legislation on a variety of issues, Time magazine, in a 2006 article, speculated his work has affected the lives of virtually every "man, woman and child in the country."

Sen. Kennedy has been a passionate supporter of cancer research funding from his early days in office. As chairman of the Senate's health subcommittee in 1971, he led the passage of the National Cancer Act, which is widely considered the most dramatic piece of health legislation ever enacted. Representing a concerted national campaign against cancer, the law authorized increased funding for federal cancer research; today, it enables funding of more than $4 billion per year for federal cancer research.

The senior Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Sen. Kennedy has used his leadership to positively affect the status of the nation's health. He has fought for cancer-related issues such as tobacco control, patient navigator funding, and cancer prevention and early detection.

Sen. Kennedy has long had a commitment to fighting cancer. To raise awareness of early detection, he co-sponsored resolutions designating National Mammography Day in October and September as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. He was a co-sponsor of the original legislation for the 1992 Mammography Quality Standards Act to ensure the safety and accuracy of mammograms, and in 2004 he helped introduce the reauthorization bill, which allowed appropriations for grants to evaluate screening programs. In 2002, Sen. Kennedy co-sponsored legislation to help uninsured Native American women suffering from breast and cervical cancer benefit from federal and state resources for treatment. He has also worked to improve access to colon cancer screenings and has supported research and education related to blood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Recognizing that smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S., Sen. Kennedy has been a leader in the bipartisan effort to provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with jurisdiction to regulate the sale, distribution, and advertising of tobacco products. After a historic victory in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate now has the opportunity to pass the legislation.

In recent months, Sen. Kennedy has inspired millions of people across the country with his own heroic battle against brain cancer. In the upcoming 111th Congress, Sen. Kennedy looks forward to introducing comprehensive cancer legislation that will address the entire spectrum of cancer carefrom prevention to treatment to cure.

Mina J. Bissell, Ph.D., distinguished scientist at the Life Sciences Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a faculty of the comparative biochemistry and a number of other groups at the University of California Berkeley, will receive the Society's Medal of Honor for Basic Research. With a professional career that spans more than three decades, Dr. Bissell is a pioneer in understanding the role of the microenvironment in cancer. While for years most researchers believed that gene mutation was the central cause of cancer, Bissell worked to prove that a cell's environment plays a critical role in cancer formation.

Dr. Bissell has authored in excess of 300 publications, is a member of five international scientific boards, and is on the editorial board of a dozen scientific journals, including Science magazine. She has given more than eighty 'named and distinguished' lectures. Her awards include the Lawrence Award and medal; the Mellon Award from the University of Pittsburgh; the Eli Lilly/Clowes Award from AACR; the first "Innovator Award" of the U.S. Department of Defense; the Brinker Award from Komen Foundation; the Discovery Health Channel Medical Honor and medal; the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center Ted Couch Lectureship and Award; the Pezcoller FoundationAACR International Award for Cancer Research; and the 2008 Excellence in Science Award from FASEB. This year, the University of Porto created an award in Bissell's honor- the Mina J. Bissell Award, of which she was the first recipient.

Dr. Bissell has been elected as a Fellow of AAAS, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. She served as President of the American Society of Cell Biology and the International Society of Differentiation. She has received honorary doctorates from Pierre & Marie Curie University in Paris and the University of Copenhagen.

Susan Band Horwitz, Ph.D., will be awarded the Society's Medal of Honor for Clinical Research. Dr. Horwitz is an internationally recognized molecular pharmacologist who has made major contributions to our understanding of antitumor drugs. Her pioneering research in identifying the mechanism of action of Taxol, as an inhibitor of cell division due to its interaction with microtubules, led to clinical trials of this drug in the mid-1980s. Taxol is now involved in the first line of treatment in many cancers, including ovarian, breast and non-small cell lung cancer. The drug has been administered to more than one million patients. Dr. Horwitz is currently Distinguished Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York where she serves as the Falkenstein Professor of Cancer Research and Co-Chair of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology.

Throughout her long career, Dr. Horwitz has authored more than 250 publications that have enhanced our knowledge of antitumor drugs, including mechanisms of drug resistance. Among the numerous awards Dr. Horwitz has received are the Cain Memorial Award from the American Association for Cancer Research; the ASPET Award for Experimental Therapeutics; the Chester Stock Award from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and the Warren Alpert Foundation Award from Harvard Medical School. Dr. Horwitz has been elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, to the National Academy of Sciences and to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. She served as president of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2002 and 2003.

Jon M. Huntsman, founder and chairman of Huntsman Corporation- a global manufacturer and marketer of differentiated chemicals, and one of the nation's most generous philanthropists- will receive the Society's Medal of Honor for Cancer Philanthropy. Mr. Huntsman and his wife, Karen, have raised or personally contributed over $600 million to the fight against cancer. In 1995, the Huntsman family joined in an unparalleled scientific quest to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer at its source by donating $100 million to establish the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. In 2000, Huntsman pledged an additional $125 million to fund ongoing research and to construct a Clinical Research Hospital adjacent to the Institute. A groundbreaking event in October of this year launched the expansion of the Huntsman Cancer Hospital, which will be twice its current size upon the project's completion in 2011. In addition to these contributions, Mr. Huntsman regularly visits patients while they receive chemotherapy.

These donations, along with subsequent gifts and grants, have helped the Huntsman Cancer Institute build a team of world-renowned specialists and provide treatment services unmatched in the region and numbered among the best in America. A survivor of three types of cancer himself, Huntsman lost his mother, father and stepmother to the disease.

Other notable gifts include Huntsman's donation of over $50 million to the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, more than $100 million to the University of Utah, and many more millions to colleges and universities throughout Utah and Idaho. In 2000, Time magazine listed Huntsman as the sixth most generous philanthropist in the United States, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy's 2007 list of largest donors listed Mr. Huntsman in second place. One of the 10 most influential Utahns of the 20th century, he donated $53 million to help rebuild the country of Armenia after the devastating 1988 earthquake. Mr. Huntsman also established the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University with an initial gift in 2007 of $25 million.


Contact: Paul Moniz
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

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