Clevenger Recognized for Discoveries in Breast Cancer Pathology

(Philadelphia, PA) -Charles Clevenger, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has been awarded the Pfizer Outstanding Investigator Award for his ongoing work on prolactin's role in breast cancer. The American Society of Investigative Pathology presented the award, which consists of $3000 and a bronze medallion, at the Experimental Biology 2003 meeting in San Diego, CA.

Clevenger, an Associate Professor in Penn's Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, first demonstrated how prolactin, a naturally occurring hormone needed for milk production, has a role in the advancement and spread of breast cancer. In the 1990s, Clevenger was able to show that breast tissue itself produces prolactin in significant quantities and that more than 95 percent of all breast cancers express the prolactin receptor, meaning prolactin was active in the tumors. He was also able to show how prolactin organized the breast cancer cells to move from the breast to other parts of the body.

Recently, Clevenger discovered that prolactin, unlike all other peptide hormones, functions directly inside the cell. Prolactin, attached to a chaperone protein, affects changes to the cell's genetic machinery, turning certain genes on or off. These findings suggest a pathway through which new therapies could block the growth and spread of breast cancer - and offer a new paradigm for how other hormones function, not just in breast cancer but in a number of other diseases.

"Charles Clevenger is a tenacious researcher who is deserving of this recognition," said Mark Tykocinski, MD, Chair of Penn's Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and past recipient of what is now the Pfizer Outstanding Investigator Award. "His tireless efforts have produced some tremendous findings that have changed the way we look at breast cancer."

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