BOSTON – Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center cancer geneticist Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD, is the recipient of the 2011 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR (American Association of Cancer Research) International Award for Cancer Research. This is the second time in the award's 14-year history that a BIDMC investigator has received this prestigious honor, which was established in 1997 to recognize a scientist of international renown who has made a major scientific discovery in either basic or translational cancer research.
"The BIDMC research community is extraordinarily proud of Dr. Pandolfi and of this award," says Chief Academic Officer Vikas Sukhatme, MD, PhD. "Pier Paolo now joins Lew Cantley as the second BIDMC investigator to receive the Pezcoller, the only time in the award's history that two investigators from the same institution have been recognized. This speaks to BIDMC's position as a world-class leader in cancer research and to the outstanding contributions being made by the BIDMC Cancer Center in translating molecular discoveries into patient treatments."
Pandolfi joined the BIDMC faculty in 2007, where he serves as Chief of the Division of Genetics in the Department of Medicine, Director of Research in the BIDMC Cancer Center, and director of the cancer genetics program. The George C. Reisman Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Pandolfi was recognized by the Pezcoller Foundation and the AACR for both his outstanding work in the field of cancer genetics, and for his groundbreaking development of cancer mouse models.
"Dr. Pandolfi's research has led to major breakthroughs in our essential understanding of how mutations in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes result in leukemias, lymphomas and solid tumors," adds BIDMC Cancer Center Director Lewis Cantley, PhD, who received the Pezcoller award in 2005. "His pioneering work in developing transgenic mouse models of cancer helped lead to novel therapeutic strategies for acute promyelocytic leukemia [APL], and, today, this unique expertise in mouse-model engineering is helping to speed the clinical testing of new personalized cancer therapies."
Among his many accomplishments, Pandolfi's prolific laboratory has characterized the function of oncoproteins and genes involved in the chromosomal translocations of APL, as well as of major tumor suppressors such as PTEN and p53, and novel proto-oncogenes, such as POKEMON. More recently, Pandolfi's laboratory challenged a central dogma of molecular biology with the discovery of a novel and critically important new role for messenger RNA that includes previously unrecognized biological functions for both coding and noncoding mRNA.
"I'm extremely honored to receive the Pezcoller award," says Pandolfi. "This is a tremendously exciting time – I would even say revolutionary – for cancer research and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. As we now clearly recognize, 'cancer' is not a single disease, but is made up of many, many different mutations. While this provides us with unprecedented opportunities for developing personalized treatments, our ultimate goal is to understand and cure cancer, and this award gives us further motivation to achieve this goal as we continue to fight relentlessly for the sake of our patients."
A native of Rome, Pandolfi received his MD in 1989 and PhD in 1995, both from the University of Perugia, Italy. He completed post-graduate work at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, University of London, before joining the faculty of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences at Cornell University in 1994.
Pandolfi is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute MERIT Award; the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America Stohlman Scholar Award; the Weizmann Institute of Science: Sergio Lombroso Prize for Cancer Research; the William and Linda Steere Foundation Award; and the prize for Scientific Excellence in Medicine from the American-Italian Cancer Foundation. He has also been awarded the Fondazione Cortese International Award; the Prostate Cancer Foundation Creativity Award; and the Ischia International Award.
In 2006, Pandolfi was elected as a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Association of Physicians, and in 2007 became a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. He is the author of more than 300 papers.
Pandolfi will deliver an award lecture entitled "The Non-Coding Revolution: A Coding-Independent Function of Gene and Pseudogene mRNAs Regulates Tumour Biology" during the 102nd Annual Meeting 2011 of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando, Florida, this spring.