2020 Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize Honorees: Ari Melnick, MD, and Courtney DiNardo, MD
ASH will honor Ari Melnick, MD of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York and Courtney DiNardo, MD, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center with the 2020 Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize for their significant research contributions to the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia through an improved understanding of epigenetics.
The Ernest Beutler Lecture, named for the late Ernest Beutler, MD, 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. The award honors two individuals: one recognized for enabling advances in basic science, and the other recognized for using clinical science or translational research to carry basic science advances through to tangible improvements in patient care.
Drs. Melnick and DiNardo will present their lecture during the 62nd ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition.
The award recognizes the contributions of Dr. Ari Melnick to the field’s understanding of the “epigenetic landscape” of hematologic malignancies, as well as Dr. DiNardo’s clinical trial contributions supporting the approval of several epigenetically active acute myeloid leukemia (AML) therapies.
“I am very honored and humbled to receive this award,” said Dr. Melnick. “I appreciate that it means my peers believe that I am meeting high standards and that this is leading to significant advances in our field.”
Dr. Melnick, the recipient of the basic science award, is the Gebroe Family Professor of Hematology/Oncology and a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, as well as a member of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell. His studies have shown that epigenetic mutations can serve as disease driver mechanisms and that epigenetic heterogeneity and clonality can influence the clinical outcome of these diseases. Dr. Melnick predominantly focuses on epigenetic mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of hematologic malignancies and has published more than 270 papers on the subject. His major scientific contributions include the first rationally designed transcription factor inhibitor for cancer treatment and the concept that the epigenome could serve as a “blueprint” containing the instructions that endow tumors with their unique phenotypes. Additionally, he observed that somatic mutations of genes encoding the enzymes IDH1 and IDH2 in AML drive aberrant DNA methylation patterning, and also discovered a new cancer paradigm whereby founder mutations in diffuse large B-cell and follicular lymphomas cause aberrant persistence of cancer hallmarks that occur normally in germinal center B-cells.
Dr. DiNardo, the translational/clinical awardee, is a clinical researcher in the Department of Leukemia, Division of Cancer Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. An academic clinical researcher with 179 published papers, she focuses on individualized therapy and precision oncology for AML, including the optimal incorporation of genomics into risk assessments and treatment algorithms, investigation for inherited hematologic malignancy syndromes, and the clinical evaluation of targeted therapeutics for molecularly-defined patient subgroups. Her early research on IDH1 and IDH2 mutations in AML helped define the relationship and significance of the unique 2HG oncometabolite, which occurs specifically in the setting of IDH mutations. This expertise in the pathogenesis of IDH mutations led to her involvement in the pivotal clinical trials leading to the ultimate FDA approval of the first-in-class mutant IDH2 inhibitor enasidenib and the mutant IDH1 inhibitor ivosidenib. She is also leading the clinical development of the BCL-2 inhibitor venetoclax in combination with either azacitidine or decitabine in AML, representing a paradigm shift in the standard of care for older patients with newly diagnosed AML.
“Being selected for the Ernest Beutler Lecture is an unbelievable honor,” said Dr. DiNardo. “I have always been so inspired by the stories and presentations of past awardees – and I am really quite humbled to be considered among this most esteemed group of hematologists.”