Researchers Share Honor for Bortezomib Discovery

OncologyLive, July 2012, Volume 13, Issue 7

Bortezomib represented a major discovery in cancer research and has helped some patients achieve a complete pathological response and live longer.

Julian Adams, PhD

Alfred Goldberg, PhD

Kenneth C. Anderson, MD

Paul Richardson, MD

Bortezomib, a therapeutic agent used to treat patients with multiple myeloma or mantle cell lymphoma, represented a major discovery in cancer research and has helped some patients with these diseases achieve a complete pathological response and live longer.

Now, nearly 10 years after bortezomib’s approval by the FDA, four researchers responsible for the drug’s discovery are being honored with the prestigious Warren Alpert Prize.

The prize has been given out annually since its inception in 1987 by the Warren Alpert Foundation and Harvard Medical School to “recognize contributions to humanity and breakthroughs in the understanding and curing of major diseases.”

The foundation announced in June that this year’s recipients are Julian Adams, PhD, of Infinity Pharmaceuticals; Alfred Goldberg, PhD, of Harvard Medical School; and Kenneth C. Anderson, MD, and Paul Richardson, MD, both of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The researchers will share an unrestricted prize of $250,000.

After spending decades researching how to selectively remove damaged or unwanted proteins from within a cellular structure called a proteasome, Goldberg teamed with three other Harvard faculty members to develop a proteasome inhibitor to prevent the body from breaking down proteins responsible for the proliferation and survival of tumor cells. After Adams was recruited, the development of these drug-like compounds led to the discovery of bortezomib. Anderson and Richardson further researched bortezomib to test its efficacy in treating myeloma.

In 2003, the FDA approved bortezomib for the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma who had been previously treated with at least one prior therapy. Millennium Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of the Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, markets the drug as Velcade.

“Adams, Anderson, Goldberg, and Richardson’s discovery and development of bortezomib as a treatment for multiple myeloma beautifully matches and fulfills the mission of the prize of rewarding benchto- bedside translational research,” said Jeffrey S. Flier, MD, dean of the faculty of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, in announcing the award.

The four researchers will be honored during a symposium at Harvard in September.