Public Release:  AACR honors Hagop Kantarjian for outstanding clinical research

MD Anderson Leukemia chair excels as clinical investigator, mentor and leader

University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., chair and professor in The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center's Department of Leukemia, will be honored for clinical research excellence at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013, April 6-10.

Kantarjian will receive the 18th Annual AACR Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research from the American Association for Cancer Research Tuesday. His award is one of six given to MD Anderson faculty at the annual meeting.

"As a highly accomplished individual investigator and the leader of a renowned department, Dr. Kantarjian's impact on the survival and well-being of leukemia patients is felt around the world," said Waun Ki Hong, M.D., head of MD Anderson's Division of Cancer Medicine and vice provost for clinical research. "He has earned this honor through years of dedicated effort."

Kantarjian's lecture, "Leukemia Research and Progress - A Look Back at the Future," will be at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, April 9, in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

"I am truly honored and humbled to be in the company of great men and women who, by their dedication to clinical research, have made seminal discoveries that have led to seismic changes in our understanding of cancer biology and therapeutics," Kantarjian said.

As a clinician and clinical researcher, Kantarjian has contributed to multiple improvements in the treatment of leukemia patients, including the development and testing of:

  • First- and second-generation BCR-ABL inhibitors, revolutionary new drugs for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Since the approval of Gleevec in 2001, these new treatments have raised the five-year survival rate of CML patients from 50 percent to 90 percent.

  • Combination therapies for acute lymphocytic leukemia that became standard of care and the single agent clofarabine, approved for ALL in 2005.

  • The epigenetic drug decitabine for myelodysplastic syndromes, potentially lethal blood malignancies that also can advance to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), approved for MDS in 2006.

  • FDA approval of ruxolitinib for myelofibrosis, an incurable and eventually lethal scarring of the bone marrow, the first approved treatment for the disease and the first to target the JAK2 protein. All clinical trials for the drug were led at MD Anderson.

"As with many individual awards, this honor reflects the efforts and accomplishments of MD Anderson's Department of Leukemia, which includes outstanding investigators across the full spectrum of leukemia," Kantarjian said.

Kantarjian has mentored many internationally recognized experts in the field, Hong said, many of whom are in the Department of Leukemia.

Overall during the past 12 years the department has been instrumental in discovering new, more effective combination treatments and in U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of new drugs for CML (5), MDS and AML, ALL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and myelofibrosis.

Two of the eight programs chosen for MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program are from the department. One addresses chronic lymphocytic leukemia and the other myelodysplastic syndromes and acute myeloid leukemia. The program is an unprecedented effort to accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances to reduce cancer deaths.

Kantarjian is also the Kelcie Margaret Kana Research Chair and associate vice president for global academic programs at MD Anderson. He received his medical degree from The American University of Beirut in Lebanon and then completed a fellowship at MD Anderson and joined the faculty in 1983. He has received numerous accolades, including the Outstanding Service to Mankind Award from the Leukemia Society of America.

Kantarjian, a member of the AACR since 1985, was on the editorial board of Clinical Cancer Research and serves on the boards of several other scientific journals, including the Journal of Clinical Oncology. He is also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Hematology and the American Society for Clinical Oncology, where he serves on the board of directors. Kantarjian has authored or co-authored more than 1,000 peer-reviewed medical publications.

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