June 10, 2015
MD Anderson faculty members honored at ASCO's annual meeting
BY Clayton Boldt, Ph.D.
Two MD Anderson faculty members were awarded by the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) at the society’s annual meeting earlier this month in Chicago.
Ernest Hawk, M.D., vice president and head of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, received the 2015 ASCO-American Cancer Society Award for his efforts in cancer prevention and control.
Through these efforts, he has advanced research, evidence-based public policy, public and professional education, and community-based services to prevent cancer. Initiatives such as EndTobacco and Healthy Communities aim to substantially reduce tobacco use and foster community partnerships to promote the adoption of healthy lifestyles.
Hawk has helped educate state lawmakers about the significance of laws restricting the sales of e-cigarettes to minors. He also shared information about reducing the impact of tobacco-related diseases through local and state smoke-free policies.
During his career, Hawk has been involved in a wide range of preclinical and clinical chemoprevention research, including developmental studies of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, COX-2 inhibitors and preventive agent combinations in high-risk cohorts. Recently, his interests have broadened to include improvement of minority and underserved populations’ participation in clinical research.
James Allison, Ph.D., chair of Immunology, received the 2015 ASCO Science of Oncology award for his pioneering research that led to a new way to treat cancer by unleashing an immune system attack rather than targeting tumors directly.
Allison’s research led to the development of ipilimumab to block CTLA-4, a protein receptor on T cells that acts as a brake on immune response. Known commercially as Yervoy, the drug is approved by the FDA to treat melanoma.
Long-term follow up of patients with late-stage melanoma showed that 22 percent of those treated with Yervoy survived at least four years, unprecedented results for the disease. Importantly, those who survived three years have gone on to live up to 10 years and beyond.
Allison’s research focuses on developing new drugs that block other checkpoints or that stimulate immune response. A key effort is identifying the best combinations of immunotherapy and other treatment types to increase response rates and lengthen patient survival.
Founded in 1964, ASCO is the world's leading professional organization representing physicians who care for people with cancer. The ASCO Special Awards recognize the dedication and significant contributions of researchers, patient advocates and leaders of the global oncology community to enhancing cancer prevention, treatment and patient care.