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AACR and Landon Foundation Support the Next Generation of Researchers with the INNOVATOR Awards

April 16, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Association for Cancer Research and the Kirk A. and Dorothy P. Landon Foundation will present three INNOVATOR Awards at the AACR 101st Annual Meeting 2010, held April 17-21, in Washington, D.C.

The first annual Landon Foundation-AACR INNOVATOR Award for Research in Personalized Cancer Medicine will be presented to W. Kimryn Rathmell, M.D., Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The third annual Landon Foundation-AACR INNOVATOR Award for Cancer Prevention Research will be presented to Samuel W. French, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles. The third annual Landon Foundation-AACR INNOVATOR Award for International Collaboration in Cancer Research will be presented to Ralph H. Hruban, M.D., Johns Hopkins University, on behalf of the Johns Hopkins-Garvan Institute Pancreatic Cancer Alliance.

The Landon Foundation-AACR INNOVATOR Awards, established in 2008, were created to foster innovation and collaboration in cancer research and to support independent investigators early in their careers.

The AACR and Landon Foundation previously partnered in presenting two annual scientific achievement awards starting in 2002. Recent award winners of the Kirk A. Landon-AACR Prize for Basic Cancer Research include Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team Leader Stephen B. Baylin, M.D.; Co-leader Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc.; and 2009 Nobel Laureate and AACR President-elect Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Ph.D. Recent award winners of the Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research include Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team Co-leader Charles L. Sawyers, M.D. A total of 16 prizes totaling $2.8 million are given to distinguished cancer researchers to honor their contributions to the understanding, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cancer.

Recognizing the critical need to identify and support the next generation of top cancer researchers earlier in their careers as a way of facilitating breakthroughs in treatment and prevention, the Landon Foundation decided it was time to refocus attention on younger midcareer pioneers.

As Landon Foundation Board Member Nance Guilmartin explained, “When the esteemed Dr. Bob Weinberg accepted his award a few years ago, he called upon funders to do more to support the work of younger cancer researchers lest we risk losing a generation of scientists amidst major funding cutbacks. At the same time we felt the need to pay more attention to prevention. Encouraged by AACR and emeritus scientists we decided it was time to shine the spotlight on bold, emerging mid-career cancer researchers at vital junctures in their work and help springboard their innovation and reward their willingness to collaborate.”

The Landon Foundation-AACR INNOVATOR Awards, designed to encourage innovation and distinguish scientists earlier in their careers, are a continuation of this partnership that identifies pioneers in cancer research. The awards provide the recipients with the recognition they need to further their careers and possibly leverage additional funding. Prior to 2010, two Prevention and two International Collaboration Awards were given totaling $400,000. The 2010 awards brings the total contribution of the Landon Foundation-AACR partnership to $3.5 million.

The INNOVATOR Award for Research in Personalized Cancer Medicine, in its inaugural year, provides support for a physician-scientist who conducts meritorious studies that hold promise for near-patient benefit to accelerate progress in the area of personalized cancer medicine. The Award for International Collaboration in Cancer Research supports an established international cancer research collaboration involving institutes in multiple countries by supplementing existing funding and providing the means to facilitate travel, training in new techniques, and the dissemination of the scientific knowledge gained from the collaboration. The Award for Cancer Prevention Research supports a junior faculty researcher conducting research in any discipline of cancer prevention. Awardees each receive a two-year grant for $100,000 over the grant term.

2010 Landon Foundation-AACR INNOVATOR Award for Research in Personalized Cancer Medicine

W. Kimryn Rathmell, M.D., Ph.D.’s project, Advancing Prognostic Algorithms for Renal Cell Carcinoma, focuses on renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer. This cancer spreads easily and many patients already have metastases at the time of diagnosis. Although surgery is an effective treatment for this cancer, incidence is increasing and more patients are presenting with metastatic disease. Very little information is available to identify those patients at risk of recurrence. With specific biomarkers, it will be easier for clinicians to determine those patients that are low risk and can be reassured of a good outcome and those that are at high risk and should be managed with more aggressive treatments.

Rathmell’s proposed work will build on her already compelling preliminary studies to determine a gene signature biomarker profile for renal cell carcinoma. This unique biomarker profile has the potential to provide increased information regarding clinical outcomes and effective treatment planning. Once she has defined the biomarker profile, she will validate it using tissues from a large number of patients with renal cell carcinoma.

Rathmell is presenting an abstract, Molecularly defining subgroups of renal cell carcinoma, during the Annual Meeting session, “New Concepts in Organ Site Research Session, NC23. Mechanistic Approach to Targeted Therapy for Advanced Kidney Cancer,” on Monday, April 19, from 11:20 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. ET, in room 152 of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

2010 Landon Foundation-AACR INNOVATOR Award for Cancer Prevention Research

Samuel W. French, M.D., Ph.D., is proposing in his project, Quercetin: A new hepatocellular carcinoma prevention paradigm, to conduct a Phase I clinical trial on the flavonol Quercetin, which is a natural dietary compound found in food plants, citrus fruits and other sources. Patients for this trial will be identified as patients with chronic hepatitis C, which is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Specifically, patients who have not benefitted from the therapies currently in practice will be selected.

HCV is the major cause for the recent doubling of liver cancer in the United States, and with the incidence predicted to increase unless there is improved secondary prevention, new strategies are urgently needed.

Studies to date have shown that Quercetin inhibits HCV production in tissue culture. Given this finding, French proposes to move the research to the next step; from bench to bedside in collaboration with his translational team. Should this study demonstrate Quercetin to be safe, easily tolerated and impact HCV, there is a range of exciting clinical prospects. First, Quercetin is inexpensive, making it easily accessible; and secondly, it is likely to exhibit minimal side effects, which may allow it to be used in combination with other antiviral therapies.

2010 Landon Foundation-AACR INNOVATOR Award for International Collaboration in Cancer Research

Ralph H. Hruban, M.D., in collaboration with Andrew V. Biankin, M.B.B.S., from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, is working on a project that involves sequencing, or determining the individual genetic “fingerprints,” of a large quantity of pancreatic cancer samples. Identifying these unique fingerprints can have an enormous impact by helping scientists discover patterns and understand the genetic basis for the development of this cancer. This understanding can also lead to identifying familial similarities, developing novel early detection tests and advancing novel therapies. To be successful, this sequencing requires cutting-edge technologies and access to multiple samples.

To perform the sequencing, Biankin (along with Sean Grimmond, Ph.D., from the Queensland Center for Medical Genomics at the University of Queensland) currently has a grant from the Australian government through the International Cancer Genome Consortium. They have the technology and experience to perform the sequencing but the grant doesn’t include sufficient funds to obtain the samples, nor is there sufficient volume of this surgery in Australia.

This project proposes working within an existing collaboration with Hruban to obtain the samples. Researchers at Johns Hopkins have the access and expertise in obtaining the cells as more pancreatic cancer surgeries are performed there than anywhere else in the world. The funds from the Landon International Collaboration Award will greatly benefit this collaboration providing the support needed to harvest and process pancreatic cancer cells.

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Download interviews with cancer researchers and recordings of the teleconferences by subscribing to the AACR Scientific Podcasts via iTunes or an RSS Reader.

The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 31,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowship and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.

Media Contact:
Michele Leiberman
(267) 646-0622
In Washington, D.C. April 17-21:

(202) 249-4098

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