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Advocate Lance Armstrong, Scientists Edward E. Harlow, Arnold J. Levine, and Marvin Zelen to Receive American Cancer Society Highest Honor for Outstanding Contributions to Cancer Fight
Society's Medal of Honor to be Awarded on November 19
PRNewswire-USNewswire
LOS ANGELES

The American Cancer Society -- the nation's leading voluntary health organization and largest non-governmental investor in cancer research -- will present its highest honor, the Medal of Honor, to four Americans who have made outstanding contributions to the fight for a world with less cancer and more birthdays. This year's winners, who will receive their awards at a ceremony during the American Cancer Society's annual meeting in Los Angeles, are: Arnold J. Levine, Ph.D., and Edward E. Harlow, Ph.D., for Basic Research; Marvin Zelen, Ph.D., for Clinical Research; and Lance Armstrong for Cancer Control. The Medal of Honor, originally called the American Cancer Society Award, was first given in 1949.

Lance Armstrong will be awarded the Medal of Honor for Cancer Control. Mr. Armstrong is a father of four, a cancer survivor and a cycling champion. In 1997, facing a struggle for his life against testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs, he created LIVESTRONG(R) to support fellow survivors. In the years since its creation, Mr. Armstrong's foundation has supported landmark achievements in America's fight against cancer. In 2004, the LIVESTRONG yellow wristbands became an international phenomenon and a grassroots symbol of support for cancer survivors, and sales of the $1 wristband have provided tens of millions of dollars for the fight against cancer.

In 2007, Mr. Armstrong hosted America's first Presidential Cancer Forum, propelling the disease to the forefront of the campaign dialogue and providing voters with an opportunity to hear directly from Presidential candidates about their plans to combat it. Mr. Armstrong has also helped unite support for an initiative in Texas that provided $3 billion for cancer research and prevention and was overwhelmingly approved by voters. He has lobbied Capitol Hill, testified before Congress, served two terms on the President's Cancer Panel, advocated for smoke-free measures all over America and helped raise $260 million to support cancer survivors and fund research. In 2009, after more than a decade of advocacy work in the United States, Mr. Armstrong returned to professional cycling in order to raise awareness of the cancer burden faced by nations around the globe through the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Campaign. The campaign seeks to support survivors all over the world and help make cancer a global health priority.

The landmark event of the campaign was the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit, held in August in Dublin, Ireland. The unprecedented gathering helped blaze a new trail for reducing the global burden of cancer. World leaders, corporations, non-governmental organizations and advocates from more than 65 countries made new commitments to cancer control and established a unified global cancer movement for the first time in history.

"I am extremely humbled to receive the American Cancer Society's Medal of Honor," said Armstrong. "During my own battle with cancer, I established LIVESTRONG with a modest goal to help at least one person affected by this disease. While we exceeded that goal long ago, the burden of cancer tragically continues to grow worldwide. This year, we established the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Campaign to reverse that deadly trend and we are already making significant strides in elevating cancer as a global priority. I thank the American Cancer Society for this honor and for being a valued partner in our cancer control efforts."

Arnold J. Levine, Ph.D., professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey as well as a professor of Pediatrics and Biochemistry at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, will be awarded the Society's Medal of Honor for Basic Research. Dr. Levine is one of the key individuals credited with the discovery of the protein p53 as a tumor suppressor, and his research has been cited as a new paradigm in cancer research.

His contributions to the understanding of the roles played by the protein p53 have been seminal, and his pivotal demonstration of the true role of p53 revolutionized thinking about the pathogenesis of cancer. Since its initial identification, p53 has proven to be the most commonly mutated gene in human cancers, attesting to its integral role in the control of cell growth. Dr. Levine has also recently established the Simons Center for Systems Biology at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, designed to bring together scientists from the worlds of molecular biology and physical sciences in order to better integrate our understanding of the complexities of cancer biology. Dr. Levine is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine, and has received numerous awards, including the Lila Gruber Cancer Research Award; the Josef Steiner Prize; the 17th Annual Bristol-Meyers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievements in Cancer Research; and the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaeder Prize, among others.

"As a scientist, it is a privilege to be recognized by an organization which is committed to furthering cancer research," said Dr. Levine. "It is also an honor to receive this award in the company of some of the cancer community's most dedicated individuals. While each of us plays a unique role in our respective areas, it is truly as a collective that we will see our greatest accomplishments in the fight against cancer."

Edward E. Harlow, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of Constellation Pharmaceuticals and previous chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School, will also be awarded the Society's Medal of Honor for Basic Research. In 1988, Dr. Harlow's lab discovered the mechanisms used by small DNA viruses to turn normal cells into tumor cells. The Harlow lab discoveries provide a decade-long research bookend to the Levine laboratory work from 1979 described above. The Levine lab made the first discovery of DNA virus proteins interactions with host proteins such as p53, and the Harlow lab described the molecular mechanisms of how such interactions drive tumor formation. These and other types of virus and host interactions are particularly important for human cancer, as viral infections account for more than 20 percent of all human cancers.

Dr. Harlow's scientific contributions have been recognized through a number of awards including the Sloan Prize from the General Motors Research Foundation, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievements in Cancer Research, and recognition as an American Cancer Society Professor. He is a member of the National Academy of Science and of the Institute of Medicine. With more than 100 publications during the last two decades, invariably in the most prestigious scientific journals, his work continues to blaze fundamental trails that many other scientists follow in their studies of the cell division cycle. Recently Dr. Harlow left Harvard Medical School to join Constellation Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company focused on developing new therapeutics for human cancer.

"The pleasure of being chosen as a Medal of Honor winner, or for any award in science for that manner, comes primarily from the recognition by your colleagues," said Dr. Harlow. "Having a group of your peers single out your contributions is remarkable, but it also reminds you of all the many steps and individual's work that combine to allow any significant step forward."

Marvin Zelen, Ph.D., professor of Statistical Science at the Harvard School of Public Health and at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is an influential leader and an exceptionally accomplished biostatistical scientist who will be awarded the Society's Medal of Honor for Clinical Research. Dr. Zelen's major contribution has been his successful effort to introduce statistical science as a pre-eminent component of the national program in cancer clinical trials. This has had a major impact in fostering interdisciplinary research in oncology. At one point in time he led the Statistical and Data Management Centers of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group and the Ludwig Clinical Trial Group, now known as the International Breast Cancer Study Group. He helped found the Statistical Center of the European Organization for the Treatment of Cancer. He was one of the early advocates and led a large program for having community hospitals participate in cancer clinical trials, at a time when only a handful of community hospitals did so.

Although other statisticians were very influential in developing and popularizing the randomized trial prior to the 1970's, Dr. Zelen essentially shaped that effort by creating the modern statistical and data management center that serves as the nerve center of these trials. During the past three decades, Dr. Zelen and his colleagues developed many of the basic ideas in today's clinical trial environment. He served as chair of Harvard's Department of Biostatistics which became the world's leading biostatistics department. In addition to his accomplishments in program building, he has published more than 150 articles on many topics in statistical theory, notably on the modeling of cancer screening, survival analysis and linear models. However, he may best be known for his work on clinical trials methodology.

"I don't regard this Medal as a personal award," said Dr. Zelen. "Rather, I am a symbol representing the many biomedical scientists, clinical investigators, nurses, data specialists and computer scientists who have worked so hard to make clinical trials in cancer credible for the scientific evaluation of cancer therapies. It is their Medal."

Medal of Honor recipients for 2009 are chosen by the American Cancer Society's National Awards Committee. Past honorees include the late Honorable Edward M. Kennedy, Senator from Massachusetts; George N. Papanicolau, M.D., inventor of the Pap test; Robert C. Gallo, M.D., recognized for his achievements in pioneering the field of human retrovirology; Judath Folkman, M.D., a leading researcher in the field of antiangiogenesis; C. Everett Koop, M.D., former U.S. Surgeon General; former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush; advice authors Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren; Benno Schmidt Sr., former chairman of the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and Dennis Slamon, M.D., director of the Revlon/ UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, who contributed to the development of the drug Herceptin(R) (trastuzumab), a therapy that treats an aggressive form of breast cancer by targeting the HER2 protein.

The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end cancer for good. As a global grassroots force of three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping you stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early, helping you get well by being there for you during and after a diagnosis, by finding cures through groundbreaking discovery and fighting back through public policy. As the nation's largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing about $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

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SOURCE: American Cancer Society

CONTACT: Claire Greenwell of the American Cancer Society,
+1-404-417-5883, claire.greenwell@cancer.org