Leader in cancer treatment and prevention research honored

September 30, 2004

PHILADELPHIA - David S. Alberts, M.D., Regents Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology, Nutritional Science, and Public Health at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and Director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson, is the recipient of the 2004 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)-Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation (CRPF) Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention Research. He is among the first in cancer research to begin studying in the laboratory those basic chemical agents and nutrients with the potential to treat or prevent cancer, and then to take them through pharmacological development and on to clinical trials in patients.

"Dr. Alberts is a true pioneer in translational cancer prevention research," said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), AACR chief executive officer.

"His many contributions to the field have advanced cancer prevention from its earliest preclinical and clinical stages of drug development to definitive, randomized controlled trials. His laboratory and clinical research has emphasized the chemoprevention and treatment of such pervasive and potentially deadly diseases as breast, colon, ovarian, and skin cancer."

Beginning in the 1970s, Dr. Alberts conducted landmark studies on the analytical chemistry and pharmacokinetics of retinoids - derived from Vitamin A. Results of clinical trials in more than 2,200 patients led to the finding that retinol is effective in preventing squamous cell skin cancer. Following this work, he developed a panel of biomarkers of skin carcinogenesis, including proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), p53, polyamine levels, and apoptosis. Together with his research group, the Chemoprevention of Skin Cancer Program Project, he developed topically administered chemopreventive agents that can be incorporated into sunscreens.

Dr. Alberts also published an important study which rejected the hypothesis that dietary supplementation with wheat bran fiber could prevent colon cancer. This study has become the benchmark for the conduct of large population-based studies in which healthy subjects are recruited from the practices of community physicians.

More recently, his work defining nuclear karyometric features as biomarkers of early neoplasia offers significant potential for identification of individuals at high risk for cancer. This technology serves as a sensitive biomarker for response to treatment with chemopreventive agents.

"Our cancer chemoprevention research laboratories are focused on research to uncover biochemical and molecular-based intervention strategies to halt and/or reverse the human carcinogenesis process," Dr. Alberts said.

Summing up his current work, Dr. Alberts added, "We are just beginning mechanistic studies of novel agents which hit and disable specific molecular targets in the skin, thus reversing severe sun damage, and we have initiated diagnostic studies of early precancerous lesions in the breast, using novel nipple lavage capabilities."

Dr. Alberts will give an award lecture, entitled "Cruising Down the Chemoprevention Superhighway with my Awesome Research Colleagues," at the third annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. This premier cancer prevention meeting will be held October 16-20, 2004, at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center in Seattle.

In 2003, the AACR honored Dr. Alberts with the 8th AACR-Joseph H. Burchenal Clinical Cancer Research Award. He serves as co-editor-in-chief of the AACR journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The two past winners of the AACR-Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation Award were, in 2003, Waun Ki Hong, M.D., of The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; and, in 2002, Michael B. Sporn, M.D., of Dartmouth Medical School.

The AACR is pleased to co-sponsor this award with the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation. CRPF is a national, nonprofit health foundation with a single mission: the prevention and early detection of cancer through scientific research and education. Over the years, CRPF has made major contributions to ongoing programs of the AACR and therefore has been named a "Champion of the AACR."
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Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research is a professional society of more than 24,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical scientists engaged in all areas of cancer research in the United States and in more than 60 other countries. AACR's mission is to accelerate the prevention and cure of cancer through research, education, communication, and advocacy. Its principal activities include the publication of five major peer-reviewed scientific journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Annual Meetings of the AACR - next year in Anaheim, Calif., April 16-20 - attract more than 15,000 participants who share new and significant discoveries in the cancer field. Specialty meetings, held throughout the year, focus on the latest developments in all areas of cancer research - etiology, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

American Association for Cancer Research

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