St. Jude Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Team recognized with prestigious science award

Memphis, Tennessee, April 14, 2009


St. Jude Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Team recognized with prestigious science award

Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital who represent the interdisciplinary team studying acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) have been recognized by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) with the AACR Team Science Award.

The AACR Team Science Award, established by the AACR and Eli Lilly and Co., acknowledges the importance of interdisciplinary teams to the understanding of cancer and/or the translation of research discoveries into clinical cancer applications. The award will be given to the St. Jude team at the AACR’s 100th Annual Meeting in April.

“The impressive accomplishments of this St. Jude team have only been possible because they are an extremely interactive, innovative and multidisciplinary translational research team,” said Michael Kastan, M.D., Ph.D., St. Jude Comprehensive Cancer Center director and a nominator of the team. “Their research has been consistently at the forefront to advance our fundamental knowledge of cancer biology. Through their teamwork and treatment protocols, they have advanced cure rates in ALL to unsurpassed levels. These investigators epitomize the best in cancer team science.”

The survival rate for ALL, the most common form of childhood cancer, is currently more than 90 percent.

St. Jude has a long tradition of leukemia research, facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations in basic, clinical and translational research related to pathogenesis and treatment of childhood ALL. This progress has been hallmarked by influential discoveries of the genomics of ALL biology, the pharmacogenomics of antileukemic agents and the translation of this knowledge and new technologies into more effective, less toxic therapy. The team’s risk-directed, personalized therapy improves not only the cure rate but also the patients’ quality of life.

“This award not only recognizes the progress made by this team to advance the cure of childhood ALL but also the extraordinary support that the institution provides for team science,” said Dr. William Evans, St. Jude director and CEO. “It has been that way since the doors opened in 1962 and is a key to St. Jude’s success in advancing cure rates for many childhood cancers. It is our culture.”

The St. Jude team has published more than 1,000 original articles in the past decade, appearing regularly in leading medical and scientific journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Nature, Cancer Cell and The Lancet.

The St. Jude Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Team includes Dario Campana, M.D., Ph.D., Oncology; Cheng Cheng, Ph.D., Biostatistics; James R. Downing, M.D., scientific director; William E. Evans, Pharm.D., St. Jude director and CEO; Melissa M. Hudson, M.D., Oncology; Sima Jeha, M.D., Oncology; Charles Mullighan, M.D., Pathology; Ching-Hon Pui, M.D., Oncology chair; Susana C. Raimondi, Ph.D., Pathology; Mary V. Relling, Pharm.D., Pharmaceutical Sciences chair; and Raul C. Ribeiro, M.D., Oncology. The team is donating the $50,000 prize to St. Jude, supporting students and postdoctoral trainees attending future scientific meetings to present their research findings.

In addition to conducting innovative clinical and translational research at St. Jude, the investigators have also been active in the Children’s Oncology Group and in coordinating many international research collaborations. The discoveries from this group have influenced diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of children with leukemia in the U.S. and around the world.

The mission of the AACR is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes more than 28,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and 80 other countries.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tenn., St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fundraising organization.