OHSU Cancer Institute Director Brian Druker Awarded International Medical Science Award

02/23/11  Portland, Ore.

Brian J. Druker, M.D., director of the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute, will receive the prestigious Keio Medical Science Prize.

The award from the Keio Medical Science Fund is made to researchers in recognition of their outstanding achievements in the fields of medical or life sciences. It is the only prize of its kind awarded by a Japanese University and is known as a major science award internationally. The winner is selected without respect to nationality. The Keio Medical Science Award is comparable to the Lasker Award, which is widely referred to as America’s Nobel.

The Keio award recognized Druker’s outstanding achievement in the development of a molecular-targeted therapy, Gleevec, the cancer pill for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).

Druker will receive the award Dec. 4 at Keio University, Tokyo.

Druker is the JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Druker, in collaboration with Novartis pharmaceuticals, developed Gleevec, a drug that interferes with an enzyme that triggers the growth of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) cells. By specifically targeting the cancerous cells, the healthy cells are left unharmed.

“The successful development of Gleevec, which is administered as a pill and does not produce severe side effects, has revolutionized cancer therapy. It has spurred the era of molecular targeted therapy, in which drugs are targeted at specific molecules predicted by basic cancer research, replacing conventional, non-specific anti-cancer drugs,” according to the award announcement.

Gleevec has also been approved for several other cancers, including gastrointestinal stromal tumors.

Druker was recently elected to National Academy of Sciences. He is a professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology and in the departments of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

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The OHSU Cancer Institute is the only cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute between Sacramento and Seattle. It comprises some 120 clinical researchers, basic scientists and population scientists who work together to translate scientific discoveries into longer and better lives for Oregon's cancer patients. In the lab, basic scientists examine cancer cells and normal cells to uncover molecular abnormalities that cause the disease. This basic science informs more than 200 clinical trials conducted at the OHSU Cancer Institute.