Past AACR president Susan B. Horwitz elected to National Academy of Sciences

05/10/05

Drug development pioneer one of six AACR members accorded this high honor

PHILADELPHIA – Susan Band Horwitz, Ph.D., president of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2002-2003, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences last week.

Dr. Horwitz holds the Rose C. Falkenstein Chair in Cancer Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Bronx, N.Y., where she also serves the Albert Einstein Comprehensive Cancer Center as Associate Director for Drug Development.

She is one of 72 new members elected to the Academy at its 142nd annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Six other AACR members also were among those selected.

The research program in Dr. Horwitz's laboratory focuses on the development of drugs derived from natural products for the treatment of malignancies, and the problem of drug resistance. It was there that the novel structure and unique mechanism of action of the widely used anti-cancer drug Taxol were first described. Taxol, isolated from the yew tree, works at the molecular level to arrest cell growth and induce cell death. Dr. Horwitz's research led to its development and approval as a treatment for ovarian, breast and lung cancers.

Currently, Dr. Horwitz is investigating newly discovered, potentially important antitumor drugs, such as the epothilones and discodermolide, which have a mechanism of action similar to that of Taxol; and she is evaluating new drug combinations. Her findings suggest that Taxol combined with signal transduction inhibitors may be more effective compared to single agents.

Dr. Horwitz also has developed taxol-resistant cell lines derived from mammalian tumor cells growing in tissue culture, to serve as a model system for studying drug resistance. She is working on quantitative mass spectrometric-based methods to pursue further the evidence in human cancer cell lines, tissues and tumors that different antigenic markers have different sensitivities to Taxol, and may also be related to drug resistance.

"Dr. Horwitz is committed to using the knowledge gained in her laboratory to develop therapies to treat human cancer," noted Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"In a distinguished career spanning more than 40 years," Foti added, "she has contributed immeasurably to reducing cancer death rates. She exemplifies the value, embraced by the AACR, of translational research involving scientists and clinicians with varied expertise in the conquest of cancer."

A member of the AACR since 1973, Dr. Horwitz has served on numerous program and special conference committees, and is a former recipient of the AACR-Bruce F. Cain Memorial Award for Preclinical Research.

Other AACR members elected to the National Academy of Sciences on May 3 are:

C. David Allis Ph.D., Professor and Head, Laboratory of Chromatin Biology, Rockefeller University, New York, N.Y. Research focus: the human genome and DNA sequences.

Michael Karin Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego. Research focus: signal transduction pathways that regulate gene expression in response to extracellular stimuli.

Mary-Claire King Ph.D., American Cancer Society Research Professor, departments of medicine and genome sciences, University of Washington, Seattle. Research focus: genetic analysis of breast and ovarian cancer.

Marc T. Tessier-Lavigne Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Research Drug Discovery, Genentech Inc., San Francisco. Research focus: mechanisms of brain wiring and other basic problems in the developmental biology of tissue growth.

Craig B. Thompson M.D., Scientific Director, Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Research focus: genes that regulate apoptosis, and their application in treating cancer.

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