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St. Jude scientists to receive coveted awards at AACR annual meeting

Two scientists to be recognized alongside others presenting their science.

Memphis, Tennessee, April 11, 2023

AACR 2022 conference opening ceremony in New Orleans, LA

© AACR/Todd Buchanan 2022

The American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) will honor two investigators from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for their clinical and translational research contributions. Melissa Hudson, M.D., St. Jude Cancer Survivorship Division director and Jun J. Yang, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences vice-chair, will receive their awards at AACR’s annual meeting, held April 14-19, 2023, in Orlando, Florida. Hudson and Yang, alongside other experts from St. Jude, will also share their ongoing and recently published research.

Hudson will be awarded the prestigious AACR-Joseph H. Burchenal Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research. The award is named after a past president of AACR and a major figure in clinical cancer research. The award is given to one scientist annually to recognize a research career of exceptional clinical impact. Hudson will also give an invited lecture at 3:00 p.m. on April 17 (all times EST).

“I’m honored to receive this award,” Hudson said. “As is the case with many endeavors in pediatric oncology, my accomplishments result from multidisciplinary collaborations of many individuals striving to improve the care and health outcomes of children with cancer. Essential to this progress has been participation by patients and families in clinical trials and long-term follow-ups that permit us to truly understand the impact of the childhood cancer experience on health and quality of survival.”

Yang will receive the mid-career AACR Waun Ki Hong Award for Outstanding Achievement in Translational and Clinical Cancer Research. The peer-nominated annual honor, named for a famous physician-scientist, recognizes one scientist under 51 years old for exceptional contributions to translation research in cancer, which could be conducted anywhere in the world.

“To be recognized in this way, at this stage of my career, I feel very honored and also very humbled,” Yang said. “To be affiliated with the late Dr. Waun Ki Hong feels very special. Giving the named lecture will be a nice opportunity to highlight the importance of doing cancer research in minority and diverse populations, the focus of my pharmacogenomic research that earned this award.” Yang will give the corresponding invited lecture at 4:00 p.m. on April 16.

St. Jude campus at dusk

St. Jude presentations share leading science

Many other St. Jude researchers will give presentations to update the field on their recent and ongoing studies.

Jinghui Zhang, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Computational Biology chair, will present “Dynamics of age-versus therapy-related clonal hematopoiesis in 2,860 long-term survivors of pediatric cancer” at 1:40 p.m. on April 16 during the “New insights into cancer initiation, evolution, therapy and survivorship through big data analysis” session, which she will chair. She is also chairing the mini-symposium “Tumor Heterogeneity at Single Cell Resolution in Space and Time” at 3:00 p.m. on April 16.

Ilaria Iacobucci, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Pathology, will present “B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia genomics: Biological and clinical implications” at 2:31 p.m. on April 15.

Jiyang Yu, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Computational Biology, will co-chair the Mini-Symposium titled “Cutting-Edge Computational Approaches for Precision Oncology and Cancer Biology” at 3:00 p.m. on April 16.

Pediatric cancer patients with certain unresectable, metastatic or relapsed cancers have dismal prognoses. Rebecca Epperly, M.D., St. Jude Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, will present a proof-of-principle B7-H3 targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell that eradicated 100% of tumors in a mouse model. The talk will be at 3:22 p.m. on April 16.

Zhaoming Wang, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control, will present “Aging biomarkers and accelerated aging as a new paradigm for clinical research in survivors of childhood cancer” at 7:00 a.m. on April 17.

Suzanne Baker, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology, will present “Oncohistones and disrupted development in diffuse glioma” at 10:45 a.m. on April 17.

Zoran Rankovic, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics, will co-chair the special session “New Drugs on the Horizon: Part 3” at 10:15 a.m. on April 17 and the mini-symposium “New targeted protein degraders: discovery and novel design strategies” at 2:30 p.m. on April 17.

Childhood cancer survivors age biologically faster than their peers. Noel-Marie Plonski, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Epidemiology & Cancer Control, will speak about how including more diverse populations in studies of this epigenetic accelerated aging revealed social determinants of health are at least partially responsible for racial disparities in outcomes at 2:37 p.m. on April 17.

A healthy lifestyle is essential for everyone, but especially for cancer patients. Aron Onerup, M.D., Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Epidemiology & Cancer Control, will speak on how higher cardiorespiratory fitness and healthy body mass index (BMI) in men with certain cancers were associated with lower mortality at 3:52 p.m. on  April 18. Onerup also won a competitive AACR Scholar-in-Training award, which recognizes an outstanding young investigator with meritorious research.

Motomi Mori, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Biostatistics chair, will moderate the forum “What Does a Biostatistician Really Think of Your Study and Why?” at 5:00 p.m. on April 18.

St. Jude poster presentations at AACR

From incorporating the genetics of Black women in research to better understand the biological underpinning of racial disparities in cancer, to investigating the ability of molecular glues to treat neuroblastoma, to creating better three-dimensional models to understand and test treatments for solid tumors, researchers from St. Jude will present posters on a range of topics throughout the conference. Those session times can be found using the meeting’s planning tool.


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.