NCI Molecular Researcher Recognized In Basic Science Category; Harvard Biostatistician And European Trials Pioneer Share Clinical Research Award
SAN ANTONIO – December 11, 2008 – Two researchers who translate math into better patient care, and one scientist focused on stopping breast cancer in its tracks, are this year’s winners of the Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in basic research and clinical research, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® announced today.
The award is the highest award of merit given by the nation’s leading breast cancer advocacy organization.
This year’s team recipients in the category of clinical research are Richard Gelber, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics (biostatistics) in the Harvard Medical School and professor of biostatistics in the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute and Aron Goldhirsch, M.D., director of the department of medicine at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy and chief physician at the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland.
Patricia Steeg, Ph.D., who is chief of the women’s cancers section of the laboratory of molecular pharmacology in the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) was recognized in the award category of basic science.
Gelber and Goldhirsch are being honored for using biostatistics to help interpret clinical trials quicker and more accurately. The statistical model they developed helps monitor the quality and quantity of the lives of patients participating in clinical trials.
Steeg is being honored for her work which looks at how and why tumors recur. Specifically, Steeg’s work has centered on certain genes, called metastasis suppressor genes that keep cells from dividing too quickly and possibly turning into new cancerous tumors.
Significant and groundbreaking science
“Komen’s focus is on research that translates quickly into meaningful patient care. Dr. Gelber and Dr. Goldhirch’s research helps us understand how to develop better clinical trials, and apply what we learn in those trials to better treatments for patients. Dr. Steeg’s work in biology may help us better understand – and stop – the spread of primary cancers to other parts of the body. This is significant and groundbreaking science, and we are grateful for the support that allows us to encourage continued work in this field,” according to Hala Moddelmog, Komen president and CEO.
Each honoree receives a cash award of $25,000, and will deliver keynote lectures today and be honored this evening at the 31st annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), a major international gathering of breast cancer researchers, clinicians and patient advocacy organizations.
Honorees receive special pin that traveled aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor
Each honoree will also receive a special Susan G. Komen for the Cure “Running Ribbon” pin that traveled aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor on its recent mission to the international space station. Endeavor transported 100 of Komen for the Cure’s ribbons on its 124th mission to help educate new audiences about the importance of breast self awareness and to highlight the contributions of the space programs in medical technology and innovation, particularly breast cancer.
The Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction was established in 1992 to recognize the efforts of pioneers in two critically important areas of the fight to end breast cancer: clinical research and basic science. The roster of Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction laureates has grown to include names of researchers who have made the most significant advancements in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as research. As part of each year’s award dinner, former laureates are also recognized for their achievements.
About the Brinker Winners
Richard D. Gelber, Ph.D., Clinical Research (Team Award)
Dr. Gelber, professor of pediatrics (biostatistics) in the Harvard Medical School and professor of biostatistics in the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), has been director of the statistical center for the International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG), formerly the Ludwig Group. His research focuses on developing statistical methods to enhance the interpretation of clinical trial results for patient care. He is the co-developer, with Drs. Aron Goldhirsch and Bernard Cole, of the Quality-adjusted Time Without Symptoms of Disease or Toxicity of Treatment method (Q-TWiST), which compares treatments in clinical trials in terms of both quality and quantity of life.
Aron Goldhirsch, M.D. – Clinical Research (Team Award)
Dr. Goldhirsch is co-chairman of scientific committee and vice chairman of the International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG), formerly the Ludwig Group. His work focuses on trials of treatment for early breast cancer and extends to fields concerned with the study of quality of life-oriented issues, the use of statistical tools for a better understanding of the biology of breast cancer and various educational and logistical problems concerning the planning, conduct and interpretation of clinical trials. International collaboration with colleague Richard D. Gelber led to the development of the Quality-adjusted Time Without Symptoms of disease or Toxicity of Treatment (QTWiST), a method to incorporate quality of life factors into comparisons of breast cancer treatment approaches.
Patricia S. Steeg, Ph.D.-Basic Science
Dr. Steeg is chief of the Women’s cancers section of the laboratory of molecular pharmacology in the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). She leads drug development efforts within the intramural program of the NCI as co-chairman of the molecular targets faculty and as deputy head of the Molecular Oncology Center of Excellence. Her research centers on molecular and translational aspects of tumor metastasis. She discovered the first metastasis suppressor gene, nm23, which has been demonstrated to inhibit metastasis, but not primary tumor formation, in 11 independent model systems. A Phase II trial investigating elevation of nm23 expression by high-dose Medroxyprogesterone acetate in postmenopausal breast cancer patients with hormone receptor negative tumors is now under way. Most recently, Dr. Steeg has been investigating the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis to the brain. Her work shows that the HER2 gene’s over-expression influences the natural history of breast cancer to promote brain colonization.