Amar Gajjar, M.D., of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, will receive the 2022 Pediatric Oncology Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). He is being honored for his career contributions to childhood cancer research, particularly for helping to transform the understanding and treatment of medulloblastoma, which is the most common malignant pediatric brain tumor.
Gajjar chairs the St. Jude Department of Pediatric Medicine, co-chairs the Department of Oncology and directs the Division of Neuro-Oncology. He also holds the St. Jude Scott and Tracy Hamilton Endowed Chair in Brain Tumor Research.
He will accept the award and present a lecture at ASCO’s annual meeting June 4 in Chicago. ASCO has about 40,000 members and is the world’s leading professional organization for physicians who care for people with cancer.
“When Dr. Gajjar started at St. Jude more than 30 years ago, treatment options for childhood brain tumors were largely limited to surgery and radiation therapy,” said James R. Downing, M.D., St. Jude president and chief executive officer. “Dr. Gajjar has helped transform the field, playing an integral role in introducing the concept of molecularly targeted treatment. He is a gifted physician, an outstanding mentor and a true collaborator who works closely with laboratory scientists to advance the global research community’s understanding of these diseases. For children at St. Jude and far beyond, this work has made a lifesaving difference.”
“You need to take this on as a challenge.”
Gajjar came to St. Jude in 1987 as a second-year resident when the hospital’s medulloblastoma program was in its infancy and survival rates were low. When he returned to finish his training, a mentor told him: “You need to take this (medulloblastoma) on as a challenge.”
More than three decades later, Gajjar’s efforts have advanced understanding of the biology of medulloblastoma. He has led the development of innovative therapeutic strategies for newly diagnosed and relapsed children and young adults, offering tailored therapy based on clinical and molecular risk stratification.
He remains focused on improving survival rates for patients and mitigating long- and short-term treatment-related side effects to improve survivors’ quality of life. “The scientific and clinical advances we have achieved related to medulloblastoma, and other pediatric brain tumors, are humbling,” Gajjar said. “The experience teaches you that you are part of a much larger mission on this earth.”
Gajjar has been instrumental in the growth of the Neuro-Oncology Program at St. Jude and has developed international collaborations with leading brain tumor programs in Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The Pediatric Oncology Award was first presented in 2002. Gajjar is the seventh St. Jude researcher to receive the honor. Others include Downing, and most recently Leslie Robison, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening disorders. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80% since the hospital opened more than 60 years ago. St. Jude shares the breakthroughs it makes to help doctors and researchers at local hospitals and cancer centers around the world improve the quality of treatment and care for even more children. To learn more, visit stjude.org, read St. Jude Progress, a digital magazine, and follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.