HOUSTON - Amy Heimberger, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), in recognition for her research on the central nervous system's immune biology, tumor evasion of immune detection and immunotherapeutic approaches for patients with malignant gliomas.
Heimberger was presented the award today by John H. Marburger III, Science Advisor to the President and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director, in a White House ceremony.
She is the first M. D. Anderson faculty member to receive the distinction - one of the most prestigious awards honoring investigators in the early stages of promising careers - since its inception in 1996. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists and engineers beginning careers.
With the award, Heimberger's research grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) studying the role of immunotherapy in glioma, will be automatically renewed.
"This Presidential award is a tremendous distinction for Dr. Heimberger, as it recognizes her many and continuing contributions to an area of cancer in need of much research - therapy for glioblastoma and other brain cancers," said Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., provost and executive vice president of M. D. Anderson. "Just as important is the award's premise that it supports the achievements of young scientists early in their independent research careers. Nurturing those accomplished scientists, like Dr. Heimberger, is paramount to both the future of cancer research, and the overall field of scientific discovery."
Heimberger became intrigued with research while working as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute research associate at Washington University School of Medicine, where she designed a transgenic murine model that now is used throughout the world to study peptide-specific immunological responses. After earning a medical degree from Washington University in 1995, she completed postgraduate training in neurosurgery and neuro-oncology research at Duke University Medical Center.
Recruited to M. D. Anderson in 2002, Heimberger directs her own lab, coordinates novel clinical trials and cares for many brain tumor patients. Heimberger's translational research focuses on the epidermal growth factor variant III protein, which occurs in about one-third of those with glioblastoma. She has directly applied her laboratory evaluations of the immune responses within the tumor micro-environment to design pivotal immunotherapy clinical trials for patients with glioblastoma.
"This award bestowed upon Dr. Heimberger is recognition of her personal and professional commitment to making lives better for those with brain cancer," said Raymond Sawaya, M.D., professor and chair of M. D. Anderson's Department of Neurosurgery. "I'm extremely proud of Dr. Heimberger ? her translational research discoveries have helped M. D. Anderson lead the way in accelerating the transition of basic knowledge into the clinic for our patients in greatest need."
Among her many other awards and distinctions, Heimberger most recently received a major institutional recognition, the Faculty Scholar Award. She's also received the American Association of Neurological Surgeons' Young Clinical Investigator of the Year Award in 2006, and her research discoveries have been reported in numerous peer-reviewed journals and conferences around the world. Heimberger's research is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Brain Tumor Society, the National Brain Tumor Foundation, and numerous pharmaceutical companies.
About M. D. Anderson
The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ranks as one of the world's most respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. M. D. Anderson is one of only 41 Comprehensive Cancer Centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. For four of the past six years, M. D. Anderson has ranked No. 1 in cancer care in "America's Best Hospitals," a survey published annually in U.S. News and World Report.