Monday, August 23, 2004

Dr. Dennis Slamon of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center to be Honored for his Work to Battle Breast Cancer

Date: September 8, 1999
Contact: Kim Irwin ( [email protected] )
Phone: (310) 206-2805

Dr. Dennis Slamon, whose research led to the development of the new drug Herceptin, will be honored Thursday, Sept. 9, as one of a handful of high-profile men who have played a key role in the fight against breast cancer, a disease that kills more than 44,000 American women every year.

Slamon will be honored as one of five "Men for the Cure" by GQ magazine and General Motors' Concept:Cure during a breast cancer fund-raiser held at Eurochow in Westwood. To date, Concept:Cure has raised $2.6 million for breast cancer organizations.

Hosts for the star-studded event include members of the famed Arquette acting family, Patricia, Rosanna, David and Courteney Cox Arquette. Proceeds from silent and live auctions will go to Concept:Cure in memory of the Arquettes' mother, Mardi, who died of breast cancer last year. Other 1999 "Men for the Cure" recipients include Joseph Fiennes, who starred in the Academy Award-winning Best Picture "Shakespeare in Love"; Joseph Abboud, a celebrated fashion designer; Don Shula, former coach of the Miami Dolphins; and Chris Spielman, recently retired linebacker for the Cleveland Browns.

Slamon, who directs the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program, laid the foundation through 12 years of laboratory and clinical research for the breakthrough drug Herceptin, approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in September 1998 for use against advanced breast cancer. Slamon's work "speaks volumes" about his commitment to the fight against cancer, said Thomas A. Florio, vice president and publisher of GQ.

"This fight is no longer just a woman's battle," Florio said. "The women who die each year from breast cancer are not the only casualties. The men, children, parents and friends of these victims suffer greatly from this terrible disease."

The development of Herceptin marks the high point of Slamon's life's work to date. His research established the relationship between a gene named HER-2/neu and a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. This discovery led to Herceptin, an antibody that can help up to 30 percent of women (60,000 cases) each year who develop breast cancer.

Slamon said much of the credit for Herceptin should go to the women who volunteered to take the experimental drug during worldwide clinical trials.

"This heralds a new age in how we treat cancer, so I'm grateful to be honored for this work," said Slamon, who continues to research new treatments for breast and ovarian cancers. "But the real heroines of this story are the hundreds of women who were brave enough to try this drug during its experimental stages."

The development of Herceptin has been cited as the first triumph in an emerging wave of new, more effective therapies designed to fight cancer at its genetic roots. Slamon, for the first time, proved the theory that if researchers could figure out what was broken in a cancer cell, they could fix it.

In addition to conducting the initial research that led to Herceptin, Slamon also served as principal investigator for the worldwide phase III clinical trials, the final round of testing prior to FDA approval.

Judith C. Gasson, scientist and director of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, said Slamon has "magnificently blended the art of healing with scientific discovery."

"His scientific achievements go beyond their impact on breast cancer, and prove the principle that if we can identify the genetic alterations in cancer, we can develop effective targeted therapies and save lives," Gasson said. "This accomplishment allows us to now say that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the war on cancer."

The "Men for the Cure" award is the latest in a series of honors collected by Slamon for his work on Herceptin.

In October 1998, Slamon was honored by the National Breast Cancer Coalition, receiving the organization's prestigious Public Advocacy Award. In January, he received the Albert B. Sabin Heroes of Science Award from Americans for Medical Progress. At the American Association for Cancer Research conference in April, Slamon received the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award. In June, the Women of Los Angeles honored him with a 1999 Highlight Award for his work.

Other honors Slamon has won include the Milken Family Medical Foundation Award for Cancer Research, the Upjohn Award in Internal Medicine and the Outstanding Young Investigator Award.

In addition to serving as director of the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, Slamon is a professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and executive vice chair for research for UCLA's Department of Medicine.

Because of his groundbreaking work, Slamon has been invited to speak at conferences worldwide. His papers have been published in prestigious medical journals, most notably in Science, Cancer Research, Oncogene, The New England Journal of Medicine and The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Slamon lives in Woodland Hills, Calif., with his wife and two children.



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This article comes from Science Blog. Copyright 2004