WASHINGTON--Four scientists, three from the United States and one from Australia, have been named winners of the 1998 General Motors Cancer Research Foundation prizes for individual achievement in cancer research.
H. Rodney Withers, PhD, DSc, of the University of California, Los Angeles, won the Charles F. Kettering Medal for outstanding contributions to the diagnosis or treatment of cancer. Dr. Withers was cited for demonstrating that proliferating cells are less able than nonprolif-erating cells to repair themselves following radiation injury. This led him to devise the therapeutic concept of hyperfrac-tionation to deliver higher total doses of radiation, over shorter intervals, to malignant solid tumors.
"This regimen has improved patient outcomes and decreased the side effects of x-ray treatment, particularly in patients with head and neck cancer," the Foundation said.
The Alfred P. Sloan Medal
The Alfred P. Sloan Medal for "the most recent contribution to basic science research related to cancer" went to H. Robert Horvitz, PhD, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Horvitz received his award for work that demonstrated that programmed cell death is an active biologic process that is genetically determined.
"His molecular genetic studies led to the identification of a large number of genes that are part of the cell death program pathway that either drives cells to die or protects them from dying," the Foundation said.
Suzanne Cory, PhD, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, and Stanley J. Korsmeyer, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, shared the Charles S. Mott Medal, given for "the most outstanding recent contribution related to the cause or ultimate prevention of cancer."
Drs. Cory and Korsmeyer were cited for their discovery that the bel-2 gene codes for a protein that exerts its oncogenic effects by suppressing apoptosis, or programmed cell death, rather than increasing cell division. "This represented a fundamentally different view of malignant transformation that has profound conceptual and practical implications, not only in cell biology, but for the clinical therapy of patients with malignant disease," the Foundation said. "The process by which cell death is controlled has an immediate relevance to our understanding of how benign cells undergo malignant transformation, and therefore represents a highly important advance in basic cancer biology."
Each prize carries a $250,000 cash award. Drs. Cory and Korsmeyer will split the funds from the Mott Medal. The awards will be formally presented June 10 during ceremonies at the Library of Congress. This is the 20th year the prizes have been awarded.