WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Swiss scientist Alex Matter has been awarded the eighth Szent-Gyorgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research for his contributions to the development of the first drug specifically targeting a molecular lesion in cancer, the U.S. National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) announced Tuesday.
The first targeted cancer therapy, imatinib mesylate, or Gleevec, contributed to a major breakthrough in the treatment of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), followed by its successful application to other malignant cancers by turning off the signal of the protein causing these cancers.
With Gleevec, the outcome of treating CML went from the dismal and often deadly to a nearly 90 percent long-term survival with little or no side-effects.
Matter's pioneering research in probing the molecular anatomy of tumor cells in search of cancer-causing proteins represents the start of a new era in cancer treatment. Gleevec was the first drug that translated the insights of molecular cancer biology into a highly effective anti-cancer drug, which offered proof that molecular targeting works in treating cancer.
The successful development of Gleevec led to a paradigm shift in new cancer treatments. The preclinical research led by Matter demonstrated that it is possible to counteract cancer by specifically inhibiting the activity of key oncogenic molecules, while the impact of the research discoveries was nothing short of phenomenal. Matter's research made it possible to turn deadly cancers into treatable diseases.
"Alex Matter is the father of targeted cancer therapies," said Chinese Minister of Health Chen Zhu, who is also chair of the 2013 Prize Selection Committee. "Dr. Matter's leadership in building the synergy between pharmaceutical companies, universities, and research hospitals changed both the way we treat CML and our approach to developing new anticancer drugs."
The NFCR is a leading charity dedicated to funding cancer research and public education relating to cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and, ultimately, cures for cancer.
Since 1973, the NFCR has provided about 300 million U.S. dollars in direct support to discovery-oriented cancer research focused on understanding how and why cells become cancerous, and on public education relating to cancer prevention, detection and treatment.
Chinese scientists Wang Zhenyi and Chen Zhu were granted the seventh Szent-Gyorgyi Prize in 2012 for their innovative research that led to a new therapeutic approach to acute promyelocytic leukemia.