PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania’s Basser Research Center for BRCA has announced the recipient of its first annual Basser Global Prize. The honor will go to cancer biology and genetics expert Alan Ashworth, FRS, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Cancer Research in London and leader of the Gene Function team in the ICR’s Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre. Ashworth has been a pioneer in efforts to develop therapies to target cancer cells that contain BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.
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. The Basser Global Prize, a marquee component of the center, 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. This year’s nominees for the prize included some of the world’s most accomplished basic, translational and clinical researchers working in the field.
“This award recognizes researchers who have made seminal advances in the field of BRCA1/2 research, with the hope of further supporting their work in order to eliminate the devastating impact of these genetic mutations on patients and their families,” said Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Research Center and the Basser Professor of Medicine in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. “Furthering these important studies is a key mission of the Basser Center, which is the nation’s only center solely devoted to research into the prevention and treatment of BRCA-related cancers.”
Ashworth’s laboratory focuses on using genetic principles to understand cancer biology and channel the findings into information to change the way patients are treated. His lab has been instrumental in the development of PARP inhibitor therapy, drugs which have shown great promise in attacking breast, ovarian and other cancers among individuals who carry BRCA1/2 mutations. His new research explores mechanisms of drug resistance among BRCA carriers, and the possibility of combing other agents with PARP inhibitors to maximize their effectiveness.
The Basser Global Prize confers $200,000 in unrestricted support of the winner's innovative BRCA1/2related research efforts. As part of the award, Ashworth will give the keynote address at the annual Basser Research Center for BRCA Symposium in May 2014, at which time he will receive the Basser Medal and a personal $10,000 cash prize.
In addition to naming the winner of the prize, the Basser Center also recently awarded its second year of grant funding – more than $2 million – to 19 Penn investigators representing a wide array of disciplines. Together, they will study topics ranging from potential vaccine therapies to prevent BRCA1/2-related cancers to optimal nutrition and exercise for BRCA-positive cancer survivors to managing the side effects associated with prophylactic ovary removal.
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