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Susan Band Horwitz, PhD, Named Recipient of 2020 Szent-Györgyi Prize


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The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) recently announced that 
Susan Band Horwitz, PhD, has been selected to receive the 2020 Szent-Györgyi Prize for
Progress in Cancer Research. Dr. Horwitz is being recognized for pioneering the understanding, at the molecular level, of the mechanisms of action and resistance of multiple effective and widely utilized antitumor drugs of natural origin.
 

Susan Band Horwitz, PhD

Susan Band Horwitz, PhD

“I am deeply honored by this award from the National Foundation for Cancer Research and the Szent-Györgyi Prize selection committee,” said Dr. Horwitz. “It is a real privilege to be among the winners of this prize, all of whom have greatly advanced cancer research and treatment. And this award is also a testament to all the students, fellows and visiting scientists who contributed to the research conducted in my lab over the years.” 

Landmark Discovery

Dr. Horwitz is a Distinguished Professor and Rose C. Falkenstein Chair in Cancer Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Most notably, she elucidated the mechanism of action of paclitaxel, a natural product obtained from the yew tree. Specifically, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she discovered that the compound binds to microtubules in cells, stabilizing them, thereby leading to cell cycle arrest and subsequent cell death. This body of work enabled the successful translation of the drug into the clinic, where it is one of the most frequently prescribed medications for the treatment of ovarian, breast, and lung cancers.

Dr. Horwitz’s work with paclitaxel led to an interest in microtubule stabilizing agents, which has resulted in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of docetaxel, ixabepilone, and carbazitaxal, and new formulations, including nab-paclitaxel. Additionally, she has made major contributions to the understanding of many other naturally occurring molecules or their derivatives which serve as cancer treatments. These include camptothecin, bleomycin, and the epipdophyllotoxins.

Funded continuously by NFCR for the past two decades, Dr. Horwitz’s work now includes research into which isoforms of tubulin may have a role in resistance to paclitaxel, as well as efforts that may help predict which patients would be more likely to respond well to the drug. 

Widespread Impact

Steven A. ­Rosenberg, MD, PhD

Steven A. ­Rosenberg, MD, PhD

Sujuan Ba, PhD

Sujuan Ba, PhD

“Dr. Horwitz has made several seminal contributions, including the major finding of the mechanism of action of a drug that has been deployed in the treatment of over a million patients with cancer,” said Steven A. ­Rosenberg, MD, PhD, Chair of the 2020 Prize selection committee, Surgery Branch Chief of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and winner of the 2019 Szent-Györgyi Prize. “She has profoundly impacted and improved the treatment of cancer patients.”

“Matching the key criteria for this prestigious prize—her seminal and extensive scientific achievements and lasting impact in saving patients’ lives—places Dr. Horwitz in the uppermost tier of cancer researchers,” said Sujuan Ba, PhD, Co-Chair of the 2020 Prize selection committee and President and CEO of NFCR. 

 


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