Susan Band Horwitz, Ph.D., will receive the Eighth Annual AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research. Horwitz conducted pioneering research by discovering the mechanism of action of the chemotherapeutic drug paclitaxel (Taxol), which prompted the development of this drug as an important therapy for many common solid tumors, including ovarian, breast, and lung carcinomas. Her work has also contributed to the understanding of how microtubules function in normal and malignant cells and why stabilization of microtubules is a promising target for drug discovery.
"Dr. Horwitz has had a direct impact on millions of cancer patients around the world through her work in understanding the mechanisms of action of paclitaxel and other cytotoxic drugs," said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. "Her remarkable career and pivotal scientific contributions have influenced our understanding of how cancer drugs work and how to translate that knowledge into improved strategic treatments."
Horwitz, an internationally recognized molecular pharmacologist and preeminent researcher, is the Rose C. Falkenstein Professor of Cancer Research and co-chair of the department of molecular pharmacology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. She is the associate director for therapeutics at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center.
Horwitz has had a continuing interest in natural products as a source of new drugs for the treatment of cancer. Her research has led to an understanding of the mechanisms of action and of resistance to taxanes, a class of anti-tumor drugs. Horwitz began investigating paclitaxel in 1977, after its isolation from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, Taxus brevifolia, by Wall and Wani. Her group demonstrated that paclitaxel had a previously unknown mechanism of action involving the stabilization of microtubules, which inhibited the dynamic properties of the polymer. As a result, the drug interfered with the normal functions of microtubules during cell division, leading to arrest in mitotis.
These pioneering studies led to clinical trials of the drug in the mid-1980s. Paclitaxel is now involved in first line treatment of many cancers, including ovarian, breast, non-small cell lung cancer, and Kaposi's sarcoma, and as an antiproliferative agent on coronary stents for the prevention of restenosis.
Horwitz' current research focuses on issues surrounding a variety of new natural products that share a similar mechanism to paclitaxel, but also have distinct differences that may enhance their therapeutic value. Her research on paclitaxel resistance has concentrated on p-glycoprotein, mutations in tubulin, modulation of the expression of tubulin isotypes, and more recently overcoming accelerated senescence. In addition, she is also interested in combining paclitaxel with specific inhibitors of signaling pathways to circumvent resistance.
Horwitz has authored more than 250 publications, advancing our knowledge of antitumor drugs and mechanisms of drug resistance. She has received numerous awards including the Cain Memorial Award from the AACR; the ASPET Award for Experimental Therapeutics; the Chester Stock Award from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; the American Cancer Society's Medal of Honor; the Bristol-Myers Squibb Cancer Distinguished Achievement Award; The Barnard Medal of Distinction; and the Warren Alpert Foundation Award from Harvard Medical School. She received a Doctor Honoris Causa, Université de la Méditerranée, Marseilles, France.
Horwitz served as president of the AACR in 2002-2003. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. Horwitz is a fellow of the National Foundation for Cancer Research and The American Society of Pharmacognosy. She was a key figure in the external advisory group that evaluated and recommended sweeping changes in the National Cancer Institute's drug screening and drug development systems. Horwitz has launched countless careers from her own laboratory and inspired innumerable others to embrace questions that change the way we think about fundamental aspects of cell biology.
Horwitz earned a bachelor's degree from Bryn Mawr College and a doctorate from Brandeis University.
The AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was established in 2004 to honor an individual who has made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work. These contributions, whether they have been in research, leadership or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer.
Horwitz will receive the Eighth Annual AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research at the Opening Ceremony of the AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2011.