Public Release: 

Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO and Director honored by National Cancer Institute

University of Utah Health

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IMAGE: This is Mary Beckerle, PhD, CEO and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). view more 

Credit: Huntsman Cancer Institute

Mary Beckerle, PhD, CEO and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah, is this year's recipient of the Alfred G. Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The prestigious award is named after Alfred G. Knudson, MD, PhD, a physician and researcher whose work added major insights to the understanding of the genetic basis of cancer. The award is presented by the National Cancer Institute each year to a scientist who has made significant research contributions to the field of cancer genetics.

Beckerle will receive the award and present the award lecture, "Interface Between Cytoskeletal Dynamics and Tumor Biology" at the NCI today in Maryland.

"It's a tremendous honor to have the cancer research accomplishments of my laboratory recognized by the National Cancer Institute" says Beckerle. "I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with many talented graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and colleagues at HCI, the University of Utah, and around the world as we have worked to understand fundamental aspects of cell biology with the goal of improving cancer treatments."

Beckerle's research has discovered a new pathway that is critical for the ability of cells to respond to mechanical signals in their environment. Such signals are now known to regulate cell growth and movement, two behaviors that are critically important in tumor biology. Her lab is currently focused on understanding the impact of this pathway on tumor progression, particularly in Ewing sarcoma, a rare but deadly bone cancer that typically affects children and young adults.

In addition to leading HCI, Beckerle is a distinguished professor of biology and oncological sciences and holds the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Endowed Chair at the University of Utah. She earned her PhD in molecular, cellular and developmental biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she was the recipient of a Danforth Fellowship. She completed post-doctoral research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received a Guggenheim Fellowship for study at the Curie Institute in Paris. Beckerle was appointed as a member of Vice President Biden's Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel where she co-chaired the working group on Precision Prevention and Early Detection. Beckerle is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Beckerle is the 22nd Knudson award winner. Past recipients of the award include Nobel laureates J. Michael Bishop, Robert Horvitz, Harold Varmus, Leland Hartwell, and Elizabeth H. Blackburn.

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Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah. The cancer campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital as well as two buildings dedicated to cancer research. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several clinics that focus on patients with a family history of cancer. As the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West, HCI serves the largest geographic region in the country, drawing patients from Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. HCI scientists have identified more genes for inherited cancers than any other cancer center in the world, including genes responsible for hereditary breast, ovarian, colon, head, and neck cancers, along with melanoma. HCI manages the Utah Population Database - the largest genetic database in the world, with information on more than 9 million people linked to genealogies, health records, and vital statistics. The institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman. Mr. Huntsman is a Utah philanthropist, industrialist, and cancer survivor.

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