PHILADELPHIA -- The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is honoring Owen N. Witte, MD, founding director of the Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research and distinguished professor of microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles, with the 55th annual AACR G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award at the AACR Annual Meeting 2015, to be held in Philadelphia, April 18-22.
Witte, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and an elected fellow of the AACR Academy, is being recognized for his many contributions to the understanding of human leukemias, immune disorders, and epithelial cancer stem cells. Witte's work, which contributed to the development of several approved targeted therapies, has transformed the lives of patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive leukemias and B-cell malignancies. He will present his lecture, "Finding Therapeutic Targets for Aggressive Prostate Cancer," Monday, April 20, 5:30 p.m. ET, in the Grand Ballroom of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The AACR and Eli Lilly and Company established the G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award in 1961 to honor Dr. G.H.A. Clowes, a founding member of the AACR and research director at Eli Lilly. This award recognizes an individual with outstanding recent accomplishments in basic cancer research.
Witte's innovative work helped revolutionize modern cancer treatment by defining tyrosine kinases as crucial drug targets in human disease. Most notably, he pinpointed the molecular consequences of the Philadelphia (Ph) chromosome abnormality present in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and related types of leukemia and defined the tyrosine kinase activity of the ABL gene product. These findings played a crucial role in the subsequent development of ABL kinase-targeted therapies, including imatinib (Gleevec), which remains the front-line treatment for Ph-positive CML.
In addition to his research involving ABL, Witte also co-discovered Bruton agammaglobulinemia tyrosine kinase (BTK). This particular kinase is essential for B-cell maturation and when mutated, results in the onset of the immunodeficiency disease, X-linked agammagloblulinemia. Recent studies involving this protein have resulted in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of ibrutinib (Imbruvica), a selective BTK inhibitor, for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia mantle cell lymphoma, and Waldenström macroglobulinemia.
More recently, Witte's work has focused on defining the epithelial stem cell populations that contribute to prostate cancer. He is currently using mass spectrometry approaches to identify kinases that could be potential therapeutic targets for human prostate cancer.
"Much progress has been made in the area of personalized cancer medicine due to the dedication of scientists and physicians around the world, many of whom I've had the pleasure of working with through the AACR's innovative initiatives," said Witte. "But much more work is needed as we seek to understand cancer, which is not a single disease but rather many diseases that develop differently. I thank the AACR for their leadership in this effort and am honored to receive the Clowes Memorial Award."
An active AACR member, Witte has served on the AACR board of directors and several grant review committees. He is a past recipient of the AACR-Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award and a co-leader of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team: Targeting Adaptive Pathways in Metastatic Treatment-Resistant Prostate Cancer. Additionally, he is also serving an appointed term on the President's Cancer Panel.
Witte has been recognized throughout his career with numerous honors. He has received the Nakahara Memorial Lecture Prize, the Cotlove Lectureship from the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists, the de Villiers International Achievement Award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Warren Alpert Prize, and is elected member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Microbiology.
Witte received his medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. He joined the UCLA faculty in 1980.
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About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 35,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in 101 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 25 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with over 18,500 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual investigator grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and other policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit http://www.AACR.org.