The American Society of Hematology (ASH) recognized Janet Rowley, MD, of the University of Chicago Medical Center, and Brian Druker, MD, of Oregon Health & Science University with the 2011 Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize for their significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), at the 2011 ASH Annual Meeting, December 10-13, 2011, in San Diego.
The Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize, named for the late Ernest Beutler, MD, a Past President of ASH and physician-scientist for more than 50 years, is a two-part lectureship that recognizes major translational advances related to a single topic. This award honors two individuals, one who has enabled advances in basic science and another for achievements in clinical science or translational research.
In 1973, Dr. Rowley discovered that the chromosomal abnormality found in patients with CML (Philadelphia chromosome) resulted from an abnormal exchange of genetic material between two chromosomes. This chromosomal rearrangement was later shown to result in the production of a defective gene and protein called BCR-ABL that promoted the excessive growth of white blood cells in CML. More recently, Dr. Druker revolutionized treatment for patients with CML by developing STI-571 (imatinib or Gleevec), a treatment for CML that inhibits the BCR-ABL protein.
Prior to these discoveries, patients diagnosed with CML typically lived only 3 to 5 years. Today, nearly 90% of CML patients are long-term survivors.
“The work done by Drs. Rowley and Druker has made CML one of the great success stories in translational research, demonstrating how a precise understanding of the molecular cause of the disease led to the development of a very effective targeted cancer treatment,” said ASH President J. Evan Sadler, MD, PhD, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. ■