Public Release: 

Molecular scientist David Livingston wins 2015 Annual Basser Global Prize

Award presentation set for annual Basser Center for BRCA Scientific Symposium

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

PHILADELPHIA -- The Basser Center for BRCA at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center has announced the recipient of its third annual Basser Global Prize. The honor will go to molecular cancer expert David Livingston, MD, Emil Frei Professor of Genetics and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and deputy director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Over the course of his career, Livingston has made significant contributions toward understanding how mutations in the DNA damage repair genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, promote cancer development. The award presentation and Livingston's keynote address will be highlights at the annual Basser Center for BRCA Scientific Symposium scheduled for May 24-25, 2016.

A marquee component of the center, the Basser Global Prize provides $200,000 in unrestricted support of the winner's innovative BRCA1/2 related research efforts, a Basser Trophy, and a personal $10,000 cash prize, to be awarded at the annual symposium.

"Nominees for the Basser Global Prize represent the pioneers in our field conducting the most innovative research aimed at developing new strategies for the prevention and treatment of BRCA-related cancers," said Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Center for BRCA and the Basser Professor of Medicine in Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. "One of the primary missions of the Basser Center is to fund the projects that will make a difference for patients with BRCA1/2 mutations, giving them better options for targeted therapies, and improved quality of life."

Individuals with mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 have an inordinately high risk of breast or ovarian cancer. The most effective preventive strategy at this time is surgical removal of the breasts and/or ovaries. The primary focus of Livingston's laboratory is to understand the fundamental mechanisms and steps by which inherited mutations in BRCA1/2 lead to breast and ovarian cancer. Such a deep understanding can then be applied to the development of alternative, non-invasive, and mechanism-driven prevention strategies. His group is pursuing an approach that focuses on understanding in detail the cellular processes that are rendered defective by BRCA1 mutation. In this regard, he and his group have recently unearthed a potentially promising target function that may be important for preventing BRCA1-cancers, as well as for the treatment of non-BRCA1 cancers that have spread. In the coming year they will conduct laboratory studies to test this hypothesis and to begin to identify new drugs that can be used to target this pathway.

Dr. Livingston's goal is to reduce the number of cells in the breast and ovary of BRCA1 mutation-bearing women that manifest a high potential for becoming malignant. "Our objective is to eliminate them by a relatively non-toxic approach and to insure that they do not accumulate thereafter," Livingston explains. "If successful, such an approach has the potential to significantly reduce the likelihood of BRCA1 cancer developing in mutation bearing women."

Dr. Livingston adds that "The Basser Center and the Basser Global Prize provide extraordinary opportunities for scientists to pursue research directed at reducing the heavy burden of BRCA disease. In that context, the support from the Basser Prize will strengthen our ability to identify new, non-invasive means of preventing BRCA1 breast and ovarian cancer."

In 2012, the Basser Center was established through a $25 million gift from Penn alumni Mindy and Jon Gray in memory of Mindy Gray's sister Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44. In 2013, the Grays made an additional $5 million gift to launch the Basser External Research Grant Program, a unique funding program for high impact translational cancer research projects aimed at advancing the care of people living with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. The Basser Global Prize was established by Shari Basser Potter and Leonard Potter to honor a visionary scientist who has conceptually advanced BRCA1/2 related research that has led to improvements in clinical care.

Applications for the 2016 Basser Prize will be open in February 2016.

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