International award honors M. D. Anderson President for pioneering research

Mendelsohn joins cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and five other Dan David Prize winners

HOUSTON - For his breakthrough research in cancer therapy, John Mendelsohn, M.D., president of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, has been named co-recipient of a 2006 Dan David Prize, which was announced in Paris.

The Dan David Foundation, based at Tel Aviv University, annually awards three prizes of $1 million each to laureates selected in fields chosen within the three time dimensions of Past, Present, and Future.

Mendelsohn joins Joseph Schlessinger, Ph.D., chairman of pharmacology at Yale University School of Medicine, as co-winner in the "Future Time Dimension" category, designed this year to recognize innovation in cancer research that will impact future treatment of the disease. The two researchers will share a $1 million prize, which will be awarded at a ceremony at Tel Aviv University on May 21.

"It is a tremendous honor to be awarded the Dan David Prize," Mendelsohn says. "It's especially gratifying to be honored for research that has played a role in the future care of patients with cancer. I am pleased to share this award with Dr. Schlessinger whom I have known for many years as a pioneer in the field of growth factor signaling. We have published one research article together."

This year, cellist Yo-Yo Ma received the $1 million "Past Time Dimension" award for "preserving cultural heritage," and four print journalists from Italy, Chile, Poland and Indonesia, cited for their pursuit of democracy and human rights, will share the $1 million "Present Time Dimension" award.

The 2006 "Future Time Dimension" award is focused on the field of cancer therapy, and Mendelsohn was awarded the prize for "pioneering the rapidly developing field of antibody-mediated cancer therapy in general and that of antibodies to growth factors in particular," according to the Foundation. For more than two decades, Mendelsohn has carried out research on how growth factors regulate the proliferation of cancer cells. Working with Dr. Gordon Sato and collaborators in the early 1980's, he created a monoclonal antibody that blocked the capacity of the epidermal growth factor to activate a specific receptor on cancer cells, resulting in inhibition of cell proliferation. The antibody, called Cetuximab (Erbitux(r)) acts by binding to the receptor, and was the first example of an anticancer agent which inhibits critical biochemical signaling pathways in cells and in human cancers growing in mice.

Mendelsohn's further laboratory research led to clinical studies of Cetuximab, the first clinical trials in humans of an agent that blocks the cellular signaling pathways regulated by growth factors. The FDA approved Cetuximab for treatment of advanced colorectal cancer in 2004, and it is being evaluated for efficacy in a variety of other cancers. Today, dozens of experimental drugs that act on signaling pathways are under investigation and a number have been approved.

Mendelsohn has combined experience in clinical and laboratory research with administrative expertise in guiding M. D. Anderson over the past decade. M. D. Anderson has been named the top cancer hospital in the nation four out of the past five years in U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Hospitals" survey.

Under his leadership, M. D. Anderson has doubled in size. Research expenditures have increased from $121 million in 1996 to $342 million and the number of employees has grown from 8,000 to over 15,000 today. Five new patient care and research buildings have been constructed, and the number of trainees has swelled from 2,000 to over 4,000.

Mendelsohn, who received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard University, was founding director of the Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, and served as chairman of the department of medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for 11 years. He also served for 10 years as the founding editor of Clinical Cancer Research, a bimonthly clinical research journal published by the American Association for Cancer Research, and is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Among other honors Mendelsohn has received are the Gold Medal of Paris, the Joseph H. Burchenal Clinical Research Award from the American Association for Cancer Research, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation's Jill Rose Award, the Simon Shubitz Prize from the University of Chicago, the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Freedom to Discover Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research and a Woodrow Wilson Award.

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