Cedars-Sinai researcher receives Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award

July 20, 2000

Neurosurgeon Keith L. Black, M.D., Director of the Cedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, has been selected to receive the Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award, an honor that provides up to seven years of research funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a branch of the National Institutes of Health.

Authorized by the United States Congress for research in the neurosciences, the Javits Award is named in honor of the late Senator Jacob K. Javits of New York, who, before his death in 1986, suffered from the degenerative neurological disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig¹s Disease. The senator was a strong advocate for research into a variety of disorders of the brain and nervous system.

According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke documents, "awardees must have demonstrated exceptional scientific excellence and productivity in one of the areas of neurological research supported by the NINDS, have proposals of the highest scientific merit, and be judged highly likely to be able to continue to do research on the cutting edge of their science for the next seven years."

The award provides an initial four-year grant, followed by an administrative review that may result in an additional three-year award. Over the past 17 fiscal years, 433 awards have been made. Scientists do not apply for the award directly. Instead, the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NANDS) Council selects potential recipients from scientists who have applied to NIH for research funding. The Council offers its recommendations to the NINDS, which makes the final decisions.

The grant provides more than $2.8 million in research and administrative funding over the seven-year period. These funds will support Dr. Black¹s studies of a biologic mechanism that previously thwarted doctors¹ efforts to effectively treat brain cancers with chemotherapy. Although a network of blood vessels nourishes the brain, cancer-fighting chemicals administered into the bloodstream were blocked from reaching tumors by the "blood-brain barrier."

Dr. Black's interest in this phenomenon began in the 1980s while he was at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he completed his undergraduate and medical degrees, an internship in general surgery and a residency in neurological surgery. He discovered that bradykinin, a natural body peptide, actually provided entry into tumors but not into the normal brain.

During the 10 years Dr. Black was at the University of California at Los Angeles, he and his colleagues created a synthetic version of bradykinin to send cancer-fighting drugs directly into a tumor ­ a breakthrough that made chemotherapy up to 100 times more effective than before. Since coming to Cedars-Sinai in 1997 to establish and direct the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, Dr. Black has continued his efforts to further circumvent the blood-brain barrier, and in fact, he anticipates releasing new research results within the next few months.

In addition to directing the Neurosurgical Institute, Dr. Black serves as director of Cedars-Sinai's Division of Neurosurgery and the Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program. He also holds the Ruth and Lawrence Harvey Chair in Neuroscience.

"Receiving the Javits Award is one of the major milestones in the professional career of a neuroscientist, an honor that only a few achieve," according to Achilles A. Demetriou, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the medical center. "All of us at Cedars-Sinai congratulate Dr. Black, not only for receiving the recognition of his colleagues in the research community, but for performing groundbreaking science that advances the way medicine is practiced and improves the way lives are lived."

The director of Cedars-Sinai's Research Institute, Shlomo Melmed, M.D., said the expertise of Dr. Black and his colleagues has not only attracted very welcome long-term federal research funding, it once again has drawn national attention to the quality of research being conducted at the medical center. "We are delighted with Dr. Black's achievements and congratulate him and his entire staff for this singular national honor. We look forward to seeing their academic careers continue to flourish here at Cedars-Sinai."
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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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