April 16, 2018
Fidler honored for landmark findings on cancer metastasis
BY Ron Gilmore
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has selected Isaiah J. Fidler, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor of Cancer Biology, as recipient of this year’s Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research.
The award was presented to Fidler on April 15 in Chicago at the AACR’s annual meeting.
In cancer firsts, Fidler and Margaret Kripke, Ph.D., MD Anderson professor emerita of Immunology, are noted for their groundbreaking studies that demonstrated tumors are composed of different, unrelated cells.
Fidler, who joined MD Anderson in 1983, also showed that metastases are non-random biologic events whose outcomes depend on the interaction between tumor cells and the cellular environment in which they exist. This cellular environment is called a microenvironment and includes the normal cells, molecules and blood vessels that surround and feed a tumor. A tumor can change its microenvironment, and the microenvironment can affect how a tumor grows and spreads.
By uncovering the complex underpinnings of these biological processes, Fidler showed that metastasis isn’t random.
Most recently, Fidler published his team’s findings on a potential new therapeutic approach to treating glioblastoma, a fast-growing and incurable form of brain cancer. The study indicated that combining the oral chemotherapy drug temozolomide (TMZ) with macitentan, a drug originally approved for treating pulmonary hypertension, significantly reduced brain cancer cells in mice.
Fidler’s group previously showed that tumors that spread to the brain after originating elsewhere in the body tricked brain cells called astrocytes into protecting the cancer, making the tumors resistant to chemo. In this latest study, Fidler explored whether astrocytes – key to providing oxygen and nutrients to neurons – and brain endothelial cells, which form the inner lining of blood vessels, actually shield brain tumor cells from TMZ.
The results, Fidler believes, may very well represent a significant new therapeutic approach for treating glioblastoma.
The Margaret Foti Award, established in 2007, is named for former AACR Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D., and recognizes an individual whose leadership and extraordinary achievements have made a major impact in cancer research. The award honors achievements such as contributions to the acceleration of cancer research, raising national or international awareness of cancer research, or other demonstrations of a sustained commitment to the conquest of cancer.
Past Foti Award winners from MD Anderson include Waun Ki Hong, M.D., professor of Thoracic Head and Neck Medical Oncology, in 2016, and John Mendelsohn, M.D., professor of Genomic Medicine and former president, in 2012.