American Society of Clinical Oncology Honors Druker with its Most Prestigious Award

05/29/03    Portland, Ore.

Druker receives Karnofsky Award for outstanding achievement and leadership in cancer research

Brian Druker, M.D., JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research at the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will receive the American Society of Clinical Oncology's (ASCO) 2003 David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award during the opening ceremony of ASCO's annual meeting on Saturday, May 31.

ASCO is the world's leading professional organization representing physicians who treat people with cancer, with membership numbering nearly 20,000 professionals from 100 countries. The Karnofsky award is ASCO's highest honor, given for innovative research and developments that have changed the way oncologists think about the practice of oncology.

"ASCO sets the standards for cancer care worldwide and leads the fight for more effective cancer treatments," said Druker, who will present the Karnofsky Memorial Lecture on "Imatinib as a Paradigm of Targeted Therapies" at the opening ceremony. "I am truly honored to receive this award."

Druker's research focuses on chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and tyrosine kinase inhibitors. He approaches CML from the inside out, studying the molecular origin of the disease as a means of developing the most effective treatments. His work, which has validated this paradigm, has changed the face of cancer therapies, leading to an effective and nontoxic treatment that targets cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.

In collaboration with scientists at Novartis, Druker developed imatinib mesylate, commonly known as Gleevec. In 2001, the FDA broke a record for cancer therapy approval by fast-tracking Gleevec, approving it in less than three months for patients who failed interferon treatment.

The FDA approved Gleevec in 2002 as an effective treatment for gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), a deadly form of intestinal cancer that, until then, had been difficult to treat. Earlier this year an editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine dubbed Gleevec the "gold standard" treatment for CML. Recent studies also have found Gleevec to be effective in treating hypereosinophilic syndrome, a rare and often fatal blood disorder. This year Gleevec became the frontline therapy for the treatment of CML and earned the FDA's approval for use in children, the first approval of a new pediatric cancer drug treatment in more than a decade.

Druker's current research focuses on understanding and predicting how individual CML patients respond to Gleevec and determining mechanisms of resistance if it occurs. He is also applying the Gleevec paradigm to another type of leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia.

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