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ASCO Awards Researchers Personalizing Cancer Treatment with Genetics

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The American Society of Clinical Oncology at its annual meeting here this week honored several researchers for their work using genetics to personalize cancer treatment.

Clara Bloomfield, the William G. Pace III Endowed chair of cancer research at Ohio State University, received the 2009 David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award for her investigations into viable treatment options for older patients with acute myeloid leukemia, a condition previously thought to be fatal in this population.

"Bloomfield's work has broadened the understanding of the mechanisms and characteristics of leukemia and lymphoma, illustrating the heterogeneity of this group of genetic diseases that can — and should — be treated according to their individual biologic characteristics," said ASCO in a statement announcing the award. "Her research has led to broad strides being made in the use of personalized medicine for patients with leukemia and lymphoma, and it has established new internationally accepted classification systems for these disorders, as well as the creation of clinical practice guidelines."

ASCO presented the Science of Oncology Award to Bert Vogelstein, director of the Ludwig Center at Johns Hopkins. Vogelstein and his colleagues have demonstrated that colorectal cancer tumors result from the accumulation of genetic alterations in specific oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. "His group's discovery and analysis of these genes and their functions represent a landmark in the application of molecular biology to the study of human disease," ASCO said in a statement.

Olufunmilayo Olopade, director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago, was named by ASCO as the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine and Human Genetics. Olopade's specialty lies in cancer risk assessment, prevention, early detection, and treatment of aggressive breast cancer in young women. "In honor of her leadership and achievements in the field of breast cancer treatment, she will receive the ASCO-American Cancer Society Award," ASCO said in a statement. Previously, Olopade received the ASCO Young Investigator Award.

The 2009 Pediatric Oncology Award will be presented to the team of William E. Evans and Mary Relling for their research into the genetics of childhood leukemia.

Evans is director and CEO of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and Relling is chair of the Pharmaceutical Department at St. Jude. Evans has received three consecutive merit awards from the National Cancer Institute for his research into the pharmacogenomics of lymphoblastic leukemia in children. Relling's research has focused on improving drug therapy for childhood leukemia, specifically pharmacogenetics of antileukemia therapy and host- and treatment-related risk factors for adverse effects of cancer therapy.

Carlos Arteaga, the vice chancellor's chair in breast cancer research at Vanderbilt University, was presented with the Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award for his discoveries of the pathogenesis of and molecular therapeutics in breast cancer. His research focuses on the role of signaling by growth factor receptors and oncogenes in the progression of breast tumor cells as well as the development of molecular treatments in breast cancer.

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