Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hagop M. Kantarjian, M.D., will receive the 18th Annual AACR Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2013, held in Washington, D.C., April 6-10. Kantarjian is chair of the leukemia department and a professor of medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
The award is presented to a scientist who has made outstanding achievements in clinical cancer research. Kantarjian’s lecture, “Leukemia Research and Progress – A Look Back at the Future,” will take place on Tuesday, April 9, at 4 p.m. ET in Ballroom A-B in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
“I am truly honored and humbled to be in the company of great men and women who, by their dedication to clinical research, have made seminal discoveries that have led to seismic changes in our understanding of cancer biology and therapeutics,” said Kantarjian. “As with many individual awards, this honor also reflects the efforts and accomplishments of MD Anderson’s Department of Leukemia, which includes outstanding investigators across the full spectrum of leukemia.”
Kantarjian, who is also the Kelcie Margaret Kana research chair in the leukemia department and associate vice president for global academic programs at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has contributed to numerous changes in the treatment of patients with several forms of leukemia. For example, he was a leader in the development and testing of both the first- and second-generation inhibitors of the BCR-ABL protein that drives nearly all cases of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). These treatments significantly reduced the mortality rate for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia from 10 to 15 percent, to 1 to 2 percent.
His research on acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL) led to several advances in patient care, including the establishment of standard-of-care treatment for patients diagnosed with the disease and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of clofarabine for children with acute lymphoid leukemia that has recurred after, or failed to respond to, initial treatment.
In addition, Kantarjian’s research established the efficacy of epigenetic therapy for myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a potentially lethal blood malignancy that also frequently develops into acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and led to the concept of low-intensity therapy for patients older than 70 with acute myeloid leukemia. He also led the clinical trial that resulted in the January 2012 FDA approval of ruxolitinib for myelofibrosis, a type of chronic leukemia for which there was no specific treatment. As well as being the first drug approved for myelofibrosis, ruxolitinib was the first drug targeting the cancer-driving protein JAK2 to be approved by the FDA.
Kantarjian’s significant contributions to the leukemia community extend far beyond his own research achievements. He has established a world-renowned department of leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and mentored many internationally recognized experts in the field of clinical leukemia research. Research and clinical trials by the department have been instrumental in discovering new, more effective combination treatments and in FDA approval of new drugs for CML, MDS and AML, ALL and myelofibrosis. Additionally, two of the eight programs chosen for MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program are from the department. One addresses chronic lymphocytic leukemia and the other both MDS and AML.
Kantarjian received his medical degree from The American University of Beirut in Lebanon and then completed a fellowship at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He has received numerous accolades throughout his career, including the Outstanding Service to Mankind Award from the Leukemia Society of America.
Kantarjian, a member of the AACR since 1985, was on the editorial board of Clinical Cancer Research and serves on the boards of several other scientific journals. He is also a member of several other professional organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Hematology and the American Society for Clinical Oncology, where he also serves on the board of directors. He has authored or co-authored more than 1,000 peer-reviewed medical publications.
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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.