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James R. Downing, M.D., elected to Fellows of AACR Academy Class of 2022

St. Jude president and CEO recognized for his role in the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project in his election to American Association for Cancer Research Academy

Memphis, Tennessee, March 22, 2022

Dr. James Downing, M.D.

James R. Downing, M.D.

James R. Downing, M.D., president and CEO of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has been elected to the 2022 Class of Fellows of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

In announcing the honor, AACR cited Downing’s role in the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, which involved whole-genome sequencing of the complete normal and cancer genomes of more than 800 pediatric cancer patients. The project was a collaboration between St. Jude and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The research led to landmark discoveries in the biology of brain tumors, leukemia, cancer of the peripheral nervous system and tumors of the eye. 

The AACR Academy recognizes and honors distinguished scientists who have made outstanding contributions and spearheaded innovations in cancer research. Academy members are considered part of a global brain trust of top contributors for the continuing mission of the prevention and cure of cancer. The Class of 2022 Fellows will be recognized during the annual AACR conference, held April 8 – 13 in New Orleans.

“I’m incredibly honored to be elected as an AACR Fellow and join this accomplished group of clinicians and scientists,” Downing said. “Having the nomination based on our collaborative and important work from the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project makes this honor even more meaningful.”

Downing is one of 33 members of the 2022 Class of Fellows. Members are elected through a peer-review process that includes assessing a nominee’s scientific accomplishments and their impact on cancer research and cancer-related sciences. The process involved current AACR Academy Fellows, the AACR Academy Steering Committee and the AACR Executive Committee.

As president and CEO of St. Jude, Downing is leading an $11.5 billion commitment to accelerate progress in the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic diseases. This includes expanding St. Jude clinical care and scientific programs in Memphis and around the globe.

Downing’s research focuses on understanding the genetic basis of cancer and how that information can be used to improve treatment. He has also been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2016) and the National Academy of Medicine (2013). He has received the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2019 Pediatric Oncology Award and Lecture, the 2017 E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize from the American Society of Hematology and the 2017 Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Prize, among other honors. In 2016, he was appointed to the Blue Ribbon Panel for former Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

The AACR has more than 47,000 members residing in 127 countries and territories and is the first and largest cancer research organization dedicated to accelerating the conquest of cancer.

The AACR Academy currently has 256 fellows, including Martine Roussel, Ph.D., and Charles Sherr, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Tumor Cell Biology.

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, read St. Jude Progress, a digital magazine, and follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.