American Cancer Society Presents 2004 Medal of Honor Awards

American Cancer Society
Monday, 23 February 2004

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge will be among those honored by the American Cancer Society for leadership in the battle against cancer. The Society will present its most prestigious award, the Medal of Honor, during a special evening ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The Society's Medal of Honor recognizes outstanding contributions in the areas of clinical research, basic research and cancer control.

The Society's 2004 award for contributions in cancer control will be presented to Ridge. The award for basic research will be presented to Tony Hunter, PhD. The award for contributions in clinical research will go to Dennis J. Slamon, MD, PhD.

Tom Ridge will be honored for his efforts to advance cancer control during his two terms as Governor of Pennsylvania. He is a founding member of C-Change, formerly the National Dialogue on Cancer, and past chairman of its State Cancer Plans Team. While serving on in that capacity, Secretary Ridge actively spearheaded the development and implementation of the State Cancer Plans Strategic proposal, which was pivotal in helping C-Change achieve its 2003 goal of having all states implement or develop a cancer control plan.

During his tenure as Governor, Secretary Ridge approved numerous measures that advanced cancer control. In 1997, he supported and signed into law a measure that allowed citizens of Pennsylvania the opportunity to donate a portion of their state income tax refunds or contribute directly to breast and cervical cancer research. More than $1 million has been raised and distributed to Pennsylvania researchers as a result. In addition, Secretary Ridge was the recipient of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition's "Pink Ribbon Award" in 2000 in recognition of his administration's advocacy for breast cancer early detection, prevention, treatment and research.

Tony Hunter, PhD, is a professor of molecular and cellular biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif, and since 1992 he has been a Frank and Else Schilling American Cancer Society Research Professor. In 1998, Dr. Hunter, a native of England, was elected as a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of London, a scientific academy that has been at the forefront of inquiry and discovery since its establishment in 1660. Dr. Hunter has received numerous awards and accolades in recognition of his achievements, including the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation Mott Prize in 1994 and the Keio Medical Science Prize in 2001.

Dr. Hunter's reputation as the world's foremost authority in the area of cellular signaling mechanisms began in 1980, when he made a groundbreaking discovery. He found that the transforming Src protein of Rous sarcoma virus was a new type of enzyme, a tyrosine kinase. Dr. Hunter's seminal contribution to cancer research was the discovery that many cellular proteins, particularly membrane-bound receptors for hormones and growth factors, are tyrosine kinases that are often mutated and activated in different types of cancer. The knowledge that one type of cancer, chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), is the result of an aberrant tyrosine kinase led to the development of GleevecTM, a drug that is taken orally and inhibits the activity of the causative tyrosine kinase, thus blocking the growth of the leukemia cells. In December 2002, Dr. Hunter and his team collaborated with scientists at SUGEN, a biotechnology company, to create a detailed map of the 518 protein kinase genes encoded by the human genome. This map, called the "Human Kinome Project" has implications for the development of new drugs and the understanding of basic cellular biology.

Dennis J. Slamon, MD, PhD, is director of the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program and head of Clinical/Transitional Research at the University of California Los Angeles' (UCLA) Jonsson Cancer Center. In addition, he is a professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and executive vice chair for research for the Department of Medicine for UCLA. Dr. Slamon is also director of the medical advisory board for the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, an organization that supports advances in colorectal cancer.

For 12 years, Dr. Slamon and his colleagues conducted clinical and laboratory research that led to the development of the breast cancer drug HerceptinTM. The drug targets a specific genetic alteration found in about 30 percent of breast cancer patients. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Herceptin monoclonal antibody for treatment of advanced breast cancer. Dr. Slamon's research proved a relationship between the gene HER-2/neu, which encodes a tyrosine kinase, and a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. He continues to place research as one of his top priorities, and is currently investigating the effectiveness of Herceptin in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. In addition, Dr. Slamon is working to develop new treatments for women with breast and ovarian cancers.

Medal of Honor recipients are chosen by the American Cancer Society's National Awards Committee, which is chaired by the immediate past president of the Society. Past honorees include: George N. Papanicolaou, MD, inventor of the Pap smear; Robert C. Gallo, MD, recognized for his achievements in pioneering the field of human retrovirology; Judah Folkman, MD, a leading researcher in the field of anti-angiogenesis; C. Everett Koop, MD, former U.S. Surgeon General; former U.S. President George Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush; advice authors Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren; and Benno Schmidt Sr., former chairman of the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

For more information, or to contact American Cancer Society, see their website at: www.cancer.org

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