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Susan G. Komen Names 2016 Recipients of Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction

Two leading breast cancer investigators join the ranks of an esteemed group of scientists who have been recognized for advancing breast cancer research and medicine with the prestigious Brinker Awards-the highest scientific honor awarded by Susan G. Komen.


Established by Komen in 1992, the Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction recognize the efforts of pioneers in two critically important areas of the fight to end breast cancer: clinical research and basic science. Advances in both the clinical setting and in our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of breast cancer are essential to combating the disease.

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This year's Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science will be presented to Charles Perou, PhD, the May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology and Professor of Genetics and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Co-Program Leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chapel Hill.


For nearly 2 decades, Perou has worked to decipher genomic information to help inform treatment decision-making for breast cancer patients. His contributions to research include the characterization of the diversity of breast tumors, which demonstrated that breast cancers can be classified into at least five molecular subtypes and led to the discovery of the basal-like/triple negative breast cancer subtype. He and his colleagues were also among the first to discover that the breast cancer subtypes were of prognostic and predictive value, and furthermore, to associate specific genetic mutations with specific breast cancer subtypes.

Charles Perou, PhD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowCharles Perou, PhD. Charles Perou, PhD

"Dr. Perou has been a giant in the study of breast cancer genomics," said Komen Chief Scientific Advisor George Sledge, MD. "From his early work defining breast cancer intrinsic subtypes to his leadership of the Breast Cancer TCGA (The Cancer Genome Atlas) project, his work has changed how we view the biology of the disease and has informed novel therapeutic approaches."


Monica Morrow, MD, FACS, Chief of the Breast Surgery Service and Anne Burnett Windfohr Chair of Clinical Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Professor of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, N.Y., will receive the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research.


Morrow has been a champion of the idea that "more is not necessarily better" when it comes to breast cancer treatments, devoting her career to advancing clinical practice and empowering women to make treatment decisions. She was instrumental in showing that sentinel lymph node dissection is an effective and safe alternative to complete (axillary) lymph node dissection for many women with early metastatic breast cancer. She is held in high regard for her commitment to evidence-based surgery, and has led a number of clinical trials and national committees that have advanced less-invasive surgical treatments and developed standards for breast-conserving surgery, which have helped shape the standard of breast cancer care for patients around the world.

Monica Morrow, MD, F... - Click to enlarge in new windowMonica Morrow, MD, FACS. Monica Morrow, MD, FACS

Eric Winer, MD, also Chief Scientific Advisor for Komen, recognized Morrow's vital contributions. "Dr. Morrow is a leader in breast cancer surgery and has had a monumental influence on breast surgical practices. Her work has led to substantive changes in surgical approaches that have led to significant quality of life improvements for countless women with early stage breast cancer."


Both 2016 Brinker Award winners will deliver keynote lectures Dec. 7 at the 39th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and will be honored at an awards ceremony.


Lung Cancer Expert to Hold Goizueta Chair for Cancer Research at Winship

Suresh S. Ramalingam, MD, Deputy Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Assistant Dean for Cancer Research in the Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, was selected to hold the Roberto C. Goizueta Distinguished Chair for Cancer Research.


The endowment was established to support a key leader in Winship's lung cancer program. The position was previously held by Fadlo R. Khuri, MD.

Suresh S. Ramalingam... - Click to enlarge in new windowSuresh S. Ramalingam, MD. Suresh S. Ramalingam, MD

"Dr. Ramalingam has provided extraordinary leadership to Winship's research efforts against lung cancer, and in his new role as Winship's Deputy Director, he is leading Winship's broad cancer research portfolio across the entire university," said Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, Winship's Executive Director.


A professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Ramalingam is an internationally recognized lung cancer physician-investigator. He serves as Winship's Director of Medical Oncology and its Lung Cancer Working Group, and he currently co-leads Winship's Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics Research Program.


Ramalingam chairs the Thoracic Malignancies Committee and serves as Deputy Chair for the Therapeutics Program within ECOG-ACRIN, an NCI-supported national clinical trials network group. His research focuses on development of novel anti-cancer agents and ways to individualize therapies for patients with small cell and non-small cell lung cancer.


Ramalingam, who is board certified in medical oncology and internal medicine, has authored over 200 scientific publications and is the section editor of "Chest Diseases" for the journal Cancer. He is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Annals of Oncology, and Clinical Lung Cancer.


Ramalingam joined the Winship faculty in 2007 and is the recipient of several awards including the James Eckman Award for Excellence in Teaching at Emory, ECOG-ACRIN Young Investigator Award, and NCI Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award. He was named a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar in 2008.


Roberto C. Goizueta was chairman and chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company from 1981 until 1997, when he died from lung cancer. His vision was for creating sustainable change and lasting impact for our community and beyond.


University of Oxford Professor Receives ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award 2016

Sir Richard Peto, FRS, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Population Health, was honored with the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Lifetime Achievement Award. It was established in 2006 to recognize international research by individuals, teams, and organizations that demonstrate commitment to clinical cancer research and/or education.


Peto, along with several dozen leading breast cancer researchers, founded the Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group in 1985, which has substantially improved the routine management of early breast cancer and influenced clinical trial strategies. Peto was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1989 for meta-analyses of randomised trials of treatments for breast cancer and vascular disease.

Sir Richard Peto, FR... - Click to enlarge in new windowSir Richard Peto, FRS. Sir Richard Peto, FRS

By their large trials, prospective studies, and worldwide meta-analyses, Peto and his colleagues have increased substantially the estimated importance of blood lipids, blood pressure, and smoking as causes of premature death. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1999 for his epidemiological studies of the hazards of smoking and benefits of stopping, and was the first to describe clearly the future worldwide health effects of current smoking patterns, predicting 1 billion deaths from tobacco in the present century if current smoking patterns persist, as against "only" 100 million in the 20th century.


On behalf of the ESMO Fellowship and Award Committee, Christoph Zielinski said, "Prof. Richard Peto has contributed constantly over the years to the prevention of cancer and to the improvement of breast cancer treatment in Europe and the world. It is, therefore, why the ESMO Fellowships and Awards Committee has unanimously voted for Richard Peto to be the recipient of the ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award 2016."


Four Young Pediatric Cancer Research Fellows Earn $1 Million in New Awards

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has named four outstanding young scientists as recipients of the prestigious Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Research Fellowship Award, committing nearly $1 million to help address a critical shortage of funding for pediatric cancer research.


The award provides funding to basic scientists and clinicians who conduct research with the potential to significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of one or more pediatric cancers. Each recipient receives a 4-year award totaling $248,000. Since 2012, this award has supported 18 innovative pediatric cancer researchers who were selected through a highly competitive process that includes evaluation by a prestigious committee of pediatric oncologists from the leading cancer centers in the U.S.


"These are some of the best young scientists working in pediatric research today, and they're at a critical juncture in their careers," said William Carroll, MD, Chair of the Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Fellowship Committee and Professor of Pediatrics and Pathology at New York University Langone Medical Center. "The program provides critically needed support for high-quality young investigators working on high-impact translational research. We need their brilliant minds focused on curing childhood cancers. That is why this award is so important."


Because cancer occurs less frequently in children and young adults than in the adult population, pediatric cancer research does not receive significant funding from either the NCI (only 4% of its budget) or the biopharmaceutical industry. As a result, there have been limited advances in recent years in treating these cancers, and fewer scientists are working in this field.


In 2012, the Sohn Conference Foundation, dedicated to curing pediatric cancers, partnered with the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the leading charity supporting innovative young cancer researchers, to establish the award. The Sohn Conference Foundation has committed over $2.2 million to the program to date. The award program continues to receive additional funding and recognition within the philanthropic community. The 2016 Damon Runyon-Sohn Fellows are:


Challice L. Bonifant, MD, PhD, with her sponsor Pavan Reddy, MD, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is studying how best to direct the immune system to combat acute myeloid leukemia (AML). By specifically directing T immune cells to AML, she hopes to make therapy stronger and more effective, while also reducing toxicity. She is exploring the activity of T cells targeting multiple AML-specific antigens that do not affect normal cells. The ultimate goal of the work is to develop new strategies to treat AML.


Michael A. Koldobskiy, MD, PhD, with his sponsor Andrew P. Feinberg, MD, at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, studies the ways cancer cells rely on "epigenetic" modifications, or chemical marks that modify the expression of genes without a change in the genetic sequence itself. Variability of epigenetic marks allows cancer cells flexibility in turning genes on and off, and may account for resistance to treatment. By dissecting the mechanisms of epigenetic modification in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common cancer in children, he aims to identify new targets for treatment.

Challice L. Bonifant... - Click to enlarge in new windowChallice L. Bonifant, MD, PhD. Challice L. Bonifant, MD, PhD

Tamara P. Miller, MD, with her sponsor Richard Aplenc, MD, PhD, at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, focuses on improving how the side effects of leukemia treatment are reported. Currently toxicities of cancer treatment for patients enrolled in clinical trials are identified through manual review of the medical record, but prior work has shown this method of identification leads to under-reporting of side effects. She aims to develop a new method that uses electronic medical record data to identify and report toxicities during treatment for leukemia. Her goals are to show this new method is more accurate than the current system used in clinical trials, and to apply this method to describe the true rates of toxicities of leukemia therapy.

Michael A. Koldobski... - Click to enlarge in new windowMichael A. Koldobskiy, MD, PhD. Michael A. Koldobskiy, MD, PhD

Cara A. Rabik, MD, PhD, with her sponsor Patrick A. Brown, MD, at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, is examining how mutations in the WT1 gene result in methylation changes in AML. WT1 recruits the machinery necessary for demethylation to its target genes, ultimately regulating gene expression. When WT1 is mutated, these genes remain methylated and inactive, preventing normal hematopoiesis. She is identifying WT1 target genes and mapping their methylation landscape both in leukemic and normal settings. She will also test drugs designed to cause demethylation to evaluate if these drugs can treat the leukemia caused by mutations in WT1.

Tamara P. Miller, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowTamara P. Miller, MD. Tamara P. Miller, MD

Leading Oncologist & Cancer Researcher Joins JAX Faculty

Connecticut Children's Medical Center, The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) for Genomic Medicine, and the UConn School of Medicine have made their first joint appointment: the pediatric oncologist and cancer researcher Ching C. Lau, MD, PhD.


Lau will serve as the Medical Director of Hematology-Oncology at Connecticut Children's, as Professor at JAX where he will specialize in pediatric brain and bone tumor research, and as Head of the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology in the Department of Pediatrics at the UConn School of Medicine. His clinical interests include neuro-oncology, solid tumors, and osteosarcoma.

Ching C. Lau, MD, Ph... - Click to enlarge in new windowChing C. Lau, MD, PhD. Ching C. Lau, MD, PhD

Lau is focused on accelerating the pace and success rate of clinical trials in pediatric cancer patients. "Although the incidence of cancer among children is much lower than that in adults, it can be just as deadly," he said. "And because of the smaller number of patients available, clinical trials of new treatments for pediatric cancers are conducted at a much slower pace. Typically patients are enrolled in clinical trials after their cancers progress or are found not to be responsive to standard therapy."


As a result, Lau said, pediatric cancer patients are exposed to side effects of standard therapy without therapeutic benefit. "This is a particularly serious problem for children because they are still undergoing normal growth and are particularly vulnerable to the side effects of anti-cancer drugs."


By using the combined approach of genomic medicine and accurate mouse models to choose the best therapy for each patient, Lau hopes to improve the speed and outcome of clinical trials as well as reduce unnecessary side effects for children with cancer.


Lau comes to Connecticut from Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, where he was Head of the Cancer Genomics Program and Molecular Neuro-Oncology Laboratory, and was also Co-Director of the Pediatrics Program at the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine.


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