2nd Annual Giants of Cancer Care Awards Honor Leading Researchers

Tony Berberabe, MPH @OncBiz_Wiz
Published: Friday, May 30, 2014
OncLive Giants of Cancer Care The ballots are in, and 16 leading researchers whose discoveries have propelled the field of cancer treatment forward will be honored during the 2014 Giants of Cancer Care award ceremony on May 30 at Riva Restaurant on Navy Pier in Chicago.

An eminent advisory board panel voted for award recipients in 11 tumor type categories including breast cancer, lymphoma, lung cancer, melanoma, and prostate cancer, and in five specialty categories. This will mark the 2nd Annual Giants of Cancer Care awards, which honored 12 of the top innovators in oncology in 2013.

In addition to recognizing past research, the Giants of Cancer Care awards are bestowed on recipients who are meeting new therapeutic challenges. Two recipients, Kie Kian Ang, MD, PhD, and Janet Davison Rowley, MD, are being honored posthumously for contributions to the field over the course of their careers.

Recipients in the following tumor type categories are:
  • Dennis J. Slamon, MD, PhD—Breast Cancer
  • George D. Demetri, MD—Gastrointestinal Cancer
  • Philip W. Kantoff, MD—Genitourinary Cancer
  • Janet Davison Rowley, MD (posthumously)—Genetics
  • Kie Kian Ang, MD (posthumously)—Head and Neck Cancer
  • Hagop M. Kantarjian, MD—Leukemia
  • Paul A. Bunn Jr, MD—Lung Cancer
  • Riccardo Dalla-Favera, MD—Lymphoma
  • Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD—Melanoma
  • Kenneth C. Anderson, MD—Myeloma
  • Patrick C. Walsh, MD—Prostate Cancer
Recipients in the specialty areas are:
  • Community Outreach: Awarded to a person who donates his or her time and resources to improve the community in which he or she serves as it relates to improving or prolonging the lives of those with cancer. Giant: Edith A. Perez, MD
  • Drug Development: Awarded to an oncologist who has successfully paved the way for new, impactful medication to reach the patient population. Giant: Howard A. Burris III, MD
  • Education: Awarded to an oncologist or an advocacy leader who advances educational efforts about cancer. Giant: John R. Seffrin, PhD
  • Scientific Advances: Awarded to an oncologist or researcher who has successfully utilized technology to advance cancer care standards. Giant: James P. Allison, PhD
  • Supportive Care: Awarded to an oncologist who excels in providing supportive care and demonstrates innovation in relieving patient pain and discomfort. Giant: Jimmie C. Holland, MD
The Giants of Cancer Care award is judged by a 29-member advisory panel of oncologists and leaders in the field who consider a nominee’s body of work, including clinical impact, significant contributions, and overall accomplishments. The advisory panel is chaired by Hope Rugo, MD, a medical oncologist and hematologist specializing in breast cancer research and treatment. Currently, Rugo serves as the director of the Breast Oncology and Clinical Trials Program at the University of California, San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Dennis J. Slamon


Dennis J. Slamon, MD, PhD

UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
Father of trastuzumab (Herceptin)

  • Slamon’s research proved a relationship between the gene HER2/neu, which encodes a tyrosine kinase, and a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.
  • His research led to the discovery of the monoclonal antibody against HER2, the breast cancer drug trastuzumab (Herceptin), which has been used to treat more than 420,000 women worldwide.
  • Herceptin has been heralded as a major advance in targeted cancer therapy since it was first introduced; the drug has been included in breast cancer treatment protocols in the United States since receiving FDA approval in 1998.
  • Slamon’s research focuses on developing new treatments for women with breast and ovarian cancers.
  • In June 2000, President Clinton appointed Slamon to the three-member President’s Cancer Panel.
  • He has won nearly two dozen research awards honoring his scientific endeavors.
Dr. George D. Demetri


George D. Demetri, MD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Cancer Center
His groundbreaking work led to the development of imatinib (Gleevec)

  • Demetri is a pioneer in the development of imatinib (Gleevec)—one of the first targeted anticancer therapies—that is now approved in 10 indications as a treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia and other hematologic malignancies, and for gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs).
  • His work subsequently contributed to the FDA approval of several other “smart drugs” for cancer treatment, including sunitinib in GIST, and, most recently, pazopanib for other sarcomas.
  • He has designed and implemented a world-renowned clinical research center focused on the treatment of sarcomas, and his team is at the cutting edge of developing personalized cancer therapeutics for specific subtypes of sarcomas.
  • Outside of the laboratory, Demetri serves as the chair of the Medical Advisory Board of the Sarcoma Foundation of America and is a member of the board of the Hope Funds for Cancer Research. He is also the co–principal investigator for the country’s only multi-institutional SPORE grant awarded to the Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration from the National Cancer Institute.
  • Demetri has received many awards, including a Focused Giving Program Award from the Johnson and Johnson Foundation in 1993, the Emil J. Freireich Award in Clinical Cancer Research from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2002, the Alexander Bodini Foundation Prize for Scientific Excellence in Medicine in 2009, and the Hope Funds for Cancer Research Award for Developmental Therapeutics in 2010.
Dr. Philip W. Kantoff


Philip W. Kantoff, MD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Cancer Center
Leading researcher in germline and somatic genetic markers in prostate cancer

  • Kantoff is a leading researcher in germline and somatic genetic markers of prostate cancer phenotype, mechanisms of resistance to hormone therapy, and the role of microRNAs in prostate cancer.
  • His work has led to the FDA approval of drugs for prostate cancer including the chemotherapies mitoxantrone and cabazitaxel and the vaccine sipuleucel-T.
  • Kantoff played a vital role in the development of abiraterone and cabozantinib.
  • He is chief clinical research officer and chief of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
  • He is the leader of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Prostate Cancer Program, and director of the prostate cancer SPORE.
  • Kantoff is the director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology, and chair of the Executive Committee for Clinical Research.
Dr. Janet Davison Rowley


Janet Davison Rowley, MD (deceased)

University of Chicago
Discovered chromosomal aberrations as causes of cancer

  • Rowley was instrumental in the advancement of the identification of chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers.
  • Rowley also identified translocation between chromosomes 8 and 21 in acute myelogenous leukemia.
  • She served on many presidential advisory committees, including the National Cancer Advisory Board (1979-1984) and the Council on Bioethics (2002-2009). She also received the National Medal of Science in 1998.
  • In 2009, she stood next to President Barack Obama when he lifted the federal moratorium on funding for stem cell research, and she returned to the White House later that year to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Rowley received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association for Cancer Research in 2010.
Dr. Kie Kian Ang


Kie Kian Ang, MD, PhD (deceased)

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
A leader in the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group’s important prospective clinical trials

  • Ang’s early research provided some of the first insights into the effects of fractionation on central nervous system normal tissues, and many of these studies are still used today to help guide clinical decision making for patients receiving treatment.
  • He turned his laboratory focus to identifying molecular markers of radiation resistance and restoring radiosensitivity through the combination of radiation with molecular targeted agents.
  • Ang collaborated with James D. Cox to write one of the most widely used textbooks in radiation oncology, Radiation Oncology: Rationale, Technique, Results.
  • As MD Anderson’s vice president for Global Academic Programs, Ang promoted and facilitated international academic and educational collaborations and directed MD Anderson’s sister-institution network of 26 leading institutions throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas.
  • His dual expertise in clinical and translational research led to many important discoveries, the most recent of which was elucidating the importance of the human papillomavirus (HPV) in influencing the outcome in patients with oropharyngeal cancer treated with radiation. This insight (published in The New England Journal of Medicine) has resulted in important personalizations of care.
Dr. Hagop M. Kantarjian


Hagop M. Kantarjian, MD

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
A world leader in leukemia treatment

  • Kantarjian has developed and demonstrated the effectiveness of a number of major treatments, including chemotherapy combinations and the single agent clofarabine for acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL); the hypomethylating agent decitabine, approved by the FDA for myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) in 2006; liposomal vincristine, approved by the FDA for ALL in 2012; and ruxolitinib, approved for myelofibrosis in 2011.
  • His research has helped to develop and champion multiple targeted therapies for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), including imatinib, dasatinib, nilotinib, ponatinib, bosutinib, and omacetaxine, all of which received FDA approvals for CML from 2001-2012. He is currently developing monoclonal antibodies in adult ALL.
  • Kantarjian is on the editorial board of Clinical Cancer Research and serves on the boards of several other scientific journals. He is a member of several other professional organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Hematology, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. He also serves on the board of directors of the 35,000-member American Society of Clinical Oncology.
  • He established the world-renowned Department of Leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and mentored many internationally recognized experts in the field of clinical leukemia research. Research and clinical trials conducted at MD Anderson have been instrumental in discovering new, more effective combination treatments, and in FDA approval of new drugs for ALL, CML, MDS, acute myeloid leukemia, and myelofibrosis.
  • Kantarjian received a lifetime achievement award for his dedication to research and clinical practice from Castle Connolly in 2014.
Dr. Paul A. Bunn Jr


Paul A. Bunn Jr, MD

University of Colorado Cancer Center
Founding director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center

  • Bunn has been a principal investigator on numerous national and local therapeutic trials and is also the principal investigator for the SPORE grant in lung cancer that is designed to conduct translational research in lung cancer.
  • As founding director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, Bunn spent 20 years molding the center into one of the foremost cancer centers in the country, the equivalent of such noted centers as MD Anderson and Memorial Sloan Kettering. It is the only one in the Rocky Mountain region and one of only 39 comprehensive cancer centers in the United States.
  • Bunn has served in various leadership positions, including as president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, chairman of the FDA Oncology Drug Advisory Committee, and president and executive director of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.
  • He has published more than 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals, over 122 reviews and editorials, and 90 book chapters on lung cancer. His studies have set standards for the treatment of lung cancer, have identified issues of natural history, and have identified biomarkers of prognosis and therapy selection.
Riccardo Dalla-Favera


Riccardo Dalla-Favera, MD, MD

Columbia University Medical Center
Identified genetic lesions involved in pathogenesis of human B-cell tumors

  • Dalla-Favera’s research has identified the lesions and the genes involved in the development of human B-cell lymphoma, has determined the mechanism by which these lesions occur, and has elucidated the contribution of each lesion to tumor development.
  • He determined the role of chromosomal translocations involving the c-myc proto-oncogene locus and immunoglobulin loci in the development of Burkitt lymphoma. These studies include the analysis of the mechanisms regulating the expression of the normal c-myc gene as well as of c-myc alleles structurally altered by chromosomal translocation in lymphoma cells.
  • Dalla-Favera has studied the normal and pathologic functions of the BCL6 gene, a recently identified proto-oncogene that codes for a transcription factor expressed in B cells, and is altered in its regulatory region in a significant fraction of human lymphoma.
  • He has identified novel oncogenes and tumor suppressors involved in the pathogenesis of lymphoma by virtue of their involvement in tumor- associated chromosomal translocations, or by “positional cloning” from chromosomal regions involved in tumor-associated deletions.
Jedd D. Wolchok


Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
An architect of ipilimumab (Yervoy)

  • Wolchok earned international recognition for his critical role in the clinical development of ipilimumab, an antibody that undermines immune “checkpoints” to allow more robust activation of T cell responses to growing cancers.
  • He served as the principal investigator for the pivotal phase III trial comparing ipilimumab and dacarbazine versus dacarbazine alone for metastatic melanoma that formed the basis for the approval of ipilimumab (Yervoy) by the FDA.
  • Conduct of the trial necessitated changes in the way in which patients with metastatic melanoma were monitored for treatment efficacy versus treatment failure; the antitumor response criteria historically used for cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs proved inadequate for immunotherapy. The trial design and results were described in what has become a landmark paper in The New England Journal of Medicine.
  • He has continued his work to improve anticancer immunotherapy, undertaking a trial of ipilimumab given along with nivolumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor with a different target. Early trial results hint that this combination may be even more effective than ipilimumab alone, leading to a global phase III trial to be directed by Wolchok.
  • To extend immunotherapy beyond melanoma, Wolchok organized the immunotherapeutics program at Memorial Sloan Kettering, which carries out all of the phase I trials of immunotherapy at the cancer center in order to enhance efforts to test new immunotherapies and expand testing on various tumor types.
Kenneth C. Anderson


Kenneth C. Anderson, MD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Cancer Center
“Make science count for patients”

  • Anderson’s research has focused on the study of multiple myeloma in its microenvironment. He has been involved in the identification of novel targets and validation of novel targeted therapies for the disease.
  • His research efforts delineate mechanisms for enhancing allogeneic and autologous immunity to myeloma cells in order to derive related novel vaccination and adoptive immunotherapy treatments.
  • In addition, he has focused on translational research studies on B-cell malignancies, especially multiple myeloma. His team led both preclinical and clinical trials of the novel proteasome inhibitor bortezomib, as well as lenalidomide, culminating in FDA approval for these agents in myeloma.
  • Anderson’s research has proved pivotal in establishing a new treatment paradigm using novel therapies to target the tumor cell, tumor host– bone marrow interaction, and bone marrow microenvironment to overcome drug resistance and improve patient outcomes in myeloma.
  • He is chief of the Division of Hematologic Neoplasia, director of the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center, and vice chair of the Joint Program in Transfusion Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Patrick C. Walsh


Patrick C. Walsh, MD

Johns Hopkins University
Pioneered the anatomic approach to radical prostatectomy

  • Walsh pioneered the development of the anatomic approach to radical prostatectomy, which involves nerve-sparing techniques that reduce impotence and incontinence.
  • Along with coworkers, he was the first to describe the 5 alpha-reductase enzyme deficiency, to develop an experimental technique for the induction of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), to demonstrate the influence of reversible androgen deprivation on BPH, and to characterize hereditary prostatic cancer.
  • Walsh authored two best-selling books for laypersons, The Prostate: A Guide for Men and the Women Who Love Them (1995) and Dr. Patrick Walsh’s Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer (2001).
  • Walsh serves as consultant to the US Naval Hospital, Walter Reed Hospital, the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health, the Advisory Board of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, as well as several local hospitals, and is a trustee of the American Board of Urology.
Edith A. Perez


Edith A. Perez, MD

Mayo Clinic
A clinical and translational investigator in the field of breast cancer research

  • Perez is a cancer specialist and an internationally known clinical and translational researcher. Her roles extend nationally, including group vice chair for the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology and other positions within the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the National Cancer Institute.
  • Her work has helped shaped the standard of care for the treatment of patients with breast cancer and her efforts have helped advance understanding of the disease among the public.
  • She is leading studies to evaluate the role of genetic biomarkers in the development, aggressiveness, and therapeutic efficacy of treatments for breast cancer.
  • She describes her research objectives as enhancing the understanding of biological markers and pathways that drive breast cancer growth and development, as well as speeding up access to personalized therapies. This joint commitment reinforces the pursuit to advance cancer genomics and improve patient care.
  • Perez is currently deputy director at large, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Serene M. and Frances C. Durling professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology
  • Her honors include the 2013 Susan G. Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research
Howard A. Burris III


Howard A. Burris III, MD

Sarah Cannon Research Institute
Initiated one of the world’s largest and most widely publicized investigational drug development programs

  • Burris has more than 20 years of phase I clinical trial experience, with a focus on investigational agents in breast cancer.
  • He is chief medical officer and executive director of Drug Development at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, Nashville, Tennessee, and is a partner with Tennessee Oncology.
  • Burris is a past member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Board of Directors and currently serves as member and chairelect of the ASCO Nominating Committee.
  • He sits on the boards of directors for the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, Tennessee Oncology, and the Minnie Pearl Foundation.
  • Burris is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and is the editor of The Oncology Report. He is an author and coauthor of more than 300 published manuscripts and book chapters.
John R. Seffrin


John R. Seffrin, PhD

American Cancer Society
Under his 22-year leadership, expanded the size and legislative reach of the ACS

  • Seffrin is CEO of the American Cancer Society, an organization he has transformed into the world’s largest voluntary health organization fighting cancer, with a billion dollars in resources to save lives by helping people stay well and get well.
  • Seffrin has expanded the ACS’s legislative reach across the United States and in forums worldwide. He has stood up to such powerful lobbying interests as the tobacco industry.
  • Seffrin spearheaded the creation of the society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, the ACS Cancer Action Network, of which he is CEO.
  • He currently serves on the White House Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health, as well as the Advisory Committee to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Secretary-level appointment.
  • Appointed to the National Cancer Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine in 1997 and 1999, Seffrin was appointed by US Sen Dianne Feinstein to co-chair the National Cancer Legislation Advisory Committee.
James P. Allison


James P. Allison, PhD

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Pioneered checkpoint blockade strategy for cancer immunotherapy

  • Allison has a longstanding interest in mechanisms of T cell development and activation, and the development of novel strategies for tumor immunotherapy.
  • He was the first person to isolate the T-cell antigen and find the “brake” (ie, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 [CTLA-4]) that stops T-cell proliferation.
  • Allison’s research with Jedd D. Wolchok in the 1990s at the University of California, Berkeley, led to the clinical development of ipilimumab (Yervoy), which was approved in 2011 by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.
  • Allison will play an instrumental role in MD Anderson’s recently announced Moon Shots Program to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths.
Jimmie C. Holland


Jimmie C. Holland, MD

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Helping patients cope and overcome the challenges that accompany a cancer diagnosis

  • As the Wayne E. Chapman Chair in Psychiatric Oncology, Holland is a pioneer in the ways in which counseling, psychosocial interventions, and medications can reduce the distress experienced by cancer patients and their families. Her research is especially focused on psychotherapy for elderly patients with cancer.
  • Holland is the first chair of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and the founding president of both the International Psycho-Oncology Society and the American Psychosocial and Behavioral Oncology Society.
  • Her work has been seminal in alerting oncologists to the psychosocial needs of patients and to the evidence-based interventions available today. The development of a body of literature, an international journal, textbooks, and training curricula resulted in a science of psychosocial care that has evolved from her work and that of her colleagues around the world.
  • To help oncologists easily evaluate patients’ distress levels, Holland and her colleagues at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network developed a “distress thermometer” that measures a patient’s distress on a 0-to-10 scale, similar to the scale oncologists use to assess pain. If a patient scores 4 or higher on the distress thermometer, it is a signal that the individual should be further evaluated and, if necessary, referred to a mental health specialist and monitored closely.

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