(WASHINGTON) – The American Society of Hematology (ASH) will recognize Janet Rowley, MD, of the University of Chicago Medical Center, and Brian Druker, MD, of Oregon Health & Science University with the 2011 Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize for their significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a cancer of the blood characterized by an overproduction of white blood cells.
The Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize, named for the late Ernest Beutler, MD, a past president of ASH and physician-scientist for more than 50 years, is a two-part lectureship that recognizes major translational advances related to a single topic. This award honors two individuals, one who has enabled advances in basic science and another for achievements in clinical science or translational research.
In 1973, Dr. Rowley discovered that the chromosomal abnormality found in patients with CML (known as the Philadelphia chromosome) resulted from an abnormal exchange of genetic material between two chromosomes. This chromosomal rearrangement was later shown to result in the production of a defective gene and protein called BCR-ABL that promoted the excessive growth of white blood cells in CML. More recently, Dr. Druker revolutionized treatment for patients with CML by developing STI-571 (also known as imatinib or Gleevec), a powerful treatment for CML that inhibits the BCR-ABL protein. Imatinib was the first drug to target the genetic defects of a particular cancer while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
Prior to these discoveries, patients diagnosed with CML typically lived only three to five years. Today, nearly 90 percent of CML patients are long-term survivors.
“The work done by Drs. Rowley and Druker has made CML one of the great success stories in translational research, demonstrating how a precise understanding of the molecular cause of the disease led to the development of a very effective targeted cancer treatment,” said ASH President J. Evan Sadler, MD, PhD, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Dr. Rowley, one of the founders of the field of cancer cytogenetics and a leader in molecular oncology, is the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago. A pioneer in demonstrating that cancer is a genetic disease, Dr. Rowley is internationally renowned for her studies of chromosome abnormalities in leukemia and lymphoma. She earned bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and science, as well as an MD from the University of Chicago and completed a medical internship at the U.S. Public Health Service Marine Hospital in Chicago. She has been on the faculty at the University of Chicago since 1962. Dr. Rowley’s laboratory continues to explore new areas of research, including the pattern of gene and microRNA expression in normal hematopoietic cells and acute myeloid leukemia cells (AML) with recurring translocations.
Dr. Rowley is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds honorary Doctor of Science degrees from 11 institutions. Dr. Rowley has received many honors over the course of her career, including the Lasker Award, the National Medal of Science, the Genetics Prize from The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the American Association for Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research.
Dr. Druker is the director of the Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute and JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research. He received his doctorate from the University of California School of Medicine at San Diego, completed his residency in internal medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, and completed an oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Druker is currently focused on developing more effective treatments for patients who become resistant to imatinib and experience a recurrence of their leukemia. In addition, he is working to identify other molecular targets in leukemia and develop therapies that block these defects.
A member of ASH since the 1980s, Dr. Druker is the recipient of many awards, including the Lasker-DeBakey Award for Clinical Medical Research, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Lifetime Achievement Award, and the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor. He is also a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.
Drs. Rowley and Druker will present their lecture, “CML: A Success Story from Chromosomes to Effective Therapy,” on Monday, December 12, at 1:30 p.m. at the ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Diego. During the session, Dr. Rowley will discuss the discovery of the chromosome translocations and cloning of the translocation breakpoint; Dr. Druker will review the pre-clinical and clinical development of Abelson (ABL) oncogene inhibitors.
Reporters who wish to arrange an interview with Drs. Rowley and/or Druker may contact Lindsey Love, ASH Communications Assistant, at 202-552-4925 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Society of Hematology is the world’s largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatment of blood disorders. Its mission is to further the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders affecting blood, bone marrow, and the immunologic, hemostatic, and vascular systems by promoting research, clinical care, education, training, and advocacy in hematology. The official journal of ASH is Blood, the most cited peer-reviewed publication in the field, which is available weekly in print and online.
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