American Cancer Society Honors Brian Druker, M.D. With Its Highest Award--The Medal of Honor

05/29/02    Portland, Ore.

Other recipients include former President George Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush

Brian Druker, M.D., will receive the American Cancer Society's Medal of Honor this week for his work in developing the cancer-fighting drug Gleevec. Former President George Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush are among those receiving the award alongside Druker for their leadership in the battle against cancer. The awards will be presented during a ceremony on Friday, May 31, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

"The American Cancer Society is a leader in the cancer community. To receive its highest award is a true honor for me," said Druker, JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research at Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute.

"Druker has devoted his life to the search for answers in eliminating cancer," said H. Fred Mickelson, American Cancer Society National Board chairman and a 25- year volunteer with the society. "His research feeds into our rapidly growing understanding of what cancer is, how it begins, and how it can be stopped. In short, what Druker discovered has revolutionized the way cancer is treated. With what we now know about molecularly targeted agents, we are better equipped than ever to cure this disease and potentially even prevent it. Thanks to Druker for searching for a cure and getting us closer than ever before to that goal."

The society's Medal of Honor is the organization's highest award for outstanding contributions in basic cancer research, clinical cancer research and cancer control. Druker will receive the clinical research award, while the society awards the Bushes for their contributions in cancer control. V. Craig Johnson, Ph.D., D.Sc., the director of the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Research Program at Northwestern University Medical School, will receive the basic research award for his role in the development of tamoxifen for the treatment of breast cancer.

The society began supporting Druker's research early in his career. "Even before the success of Gleevec, the American Cancer Society saw promise in my work and helped nurture that with its support. Now is the time to invest in cancer research. I look forward to using this award to raise awareness about the need to seize this moment in cancer research history," said Druker.

Druker revolutionized cancer treatment with the development of STI571, commonly known as Gleevec. The drug targets specific proteins that promote the formation of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). Hundreds of patients have gone into remission thanks to this drug.

Just last week Druker presented his most recent study results on Gleevec at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting. The study showed that Gleevec performs four to six times better than interferon as a first-line treatment for CML. Last year Gleevec was approved in record time by the Food and Drug Administration for CML patients who failed interferon; these latest results will change the standard treatment for newly diagnosed CML.

Work on STI571 has led Druker's group to now study the FLT3 protein, which is mutated in 30 percent of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Using the STI571 studies as a road map for drug development, Druker and his colleagues at OHSU hope to design an effective FLT3 inhibitor and take that to clinical trials.

This week Druker also was selected to be a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, one of science's most prestigious awards.

The Medal of Honor was first presented in 1949; it was then called the American Cancer Society Award. The society's National Awards Committee selects the award winners based on nominations by its members as well as other individuals interested in cancer. The medal itself is a large, five-ounce silver medallion and covered in gold vermeil. Past award winners include George N. Papanicolaou, M.D., inventor of the Pap smear; J. Michael Bishop, M.D., recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Medicine/Physiology; and C. Everett Koop, M.D., former U.S. surgeon general.