Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will recognize Alexander Levitzki, Ph.D., for his contributions to signal transduction therapy and his work on the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors as effective agents against cancer with the 2013 AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013, held in Washington, D.C., April 6-10.
Levitzki is a professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in Israel. His lecture, “Eradicating Tumors by Targeting Nonviral Vectors Carrying PolyIC,” will take place at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 9, in Ballroom A-B of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Levitzki pioneered the development of tyrosine phosphorylation inhibitors (tyrphostins) against a wide spectrum of protein tyrosine kinases. In 1988, he conducted a systematic screening of low molecular weight protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors synthesized by his team, and identified the most potent compounds that inhibited the EGF-dependent proliferation of cancer cells. He demonstrated the activity and specificity of these inhibitors at a time when most researchers believed they could not be developed for clinical applications, since such an inhibitor may have extensive inhibitory activity against other members of the kinase “super-family” and, therefore, lack any specificity. Levitzki subsequently synthesized inhibitors that showed remarkable specificity to several other kinase targets including HER2, the Bcr-Abl fusion protein, the PDGF receptor, the VEGF receptor and Jak2.
Levitzki’s concept of targeted cancer therapy using protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors is extensively used by the pharmaceutical industry worldwide to develop anticancer drugs. His studies formed the basis for the development of drugs like imatinib, crizotinib and lapatinib, used for the treatment of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, lung cancer and breast cancer, respectively. Currently there are more than 200 such inhibitors at various stages of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process.
His method of large-scale screening of synthetic compounds tested against a large spectrum of protein kinases for specificity, followed by systematic testing in cell lines and animal studies, became the standard procedure in most of the laboratories working in that field.
Levitzki’s team developed pharmacophores, describing the structural features that are requisites for the binding of synthetic compounds to their respective targets, in order to trigger a biological response. The chemical principles he summarized and published in Science in 1995 have become the reference for the field of kinase inhibitors.
Levitzki has received numerous awards throughout his impressive career, including the Israel Prize in Biochemistry, the Wolf Prize for Medicine, the Hamilton-Fairley Award from the European Society of Medical Oncology, the Rothschild Prize in Biology and two Prostate Cancer Foundation Research Awards. Last year he received the Nauta Award in Pharmacochemistry, which is the highest award from the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry. He is a member of the board of governors of the Israel Cancer Association, was chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences at the Israel Academy of Sciences, an honorary member of the American Society of Biological Chemists and an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. He served as president and vice president of the Federation of Israeli Societies of Experimental Biology and received a doctor honoris causa degree from Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva, Israel. Levitzki was a member of the scientific advisory board of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and has served on the editorial board of several journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Science, European Journal of Biochemistry, Current Signal Transduction Therapy and the European Journal of Chemical Biology.
Levitzki received his doctorate in biophysics and biochemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovoth, Israel. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the department of biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.
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Press registration for the AACR Annual Meeting 2013 is free to qualified journalists and public information officers: www.aacr.org/PressRegistration.
About the American Association for Cancer ResearchFounded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.