Netherlands Cancer Institute proclaimed winner of the ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award

Lugano 04 July 2007The Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) is the winner of the second edition of the European Society for Medical Oncology ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award supported by an unrestricted grant from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The research group was conferred the award for its outstanding achievements in the area of Translational Research in Breast Cancer. The head of the Molecular Carcinogenesis Division of the Institute, Dr. René Bernards, and the Head of the Molecular Pathology Division, Dr. Laura van 't Veer, are receiving the award on behalf of the institute during the Opening Ceremony of the ESMO Conference (ECLU) on July 5, 2007 in Lugano, Switzerland.


From a basic genetic approach, the team of researchers at the NKI has bridged the gap to the clinic, and their contributions have resulted in the development of assays that have led to a better understanding of breast cancer and very likely to a more precise and less aggressive therapy to patients affected with this disease.

"Last year, the ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award went to a clinical group - namely the Breast International Group (BIG) - now recognized as a great platform for the conduct of adjuvant breast cancer trials, including the difficult ones targeting smaller molecular subgroups", stated Professor Martine Piccart, winner of the 2006 award, and current Chair of the ESMO Fellowship and Award Committee.

"This year ESMO will honour a fantastic team of basic and translational researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam: René Bernards and Laura Van 't Veer", Professor Piccart continued. "These researchers have demonstrated exceptional skills at understanding the clinical problems cancer doctors and patients are still facing and at closing the gap between the laboratory and the clinical wards. Among many achievements, they have discovered and developed a gene-signature that seems better than traditional clinical tools at targeting which breast cancer patients have an excellent prognosis and might be spared adjuvant chemotherapy."

The gene-signature has been made into a robust diagnostic product and received approval by European authorities - CE marking - and the United States Food and Drug Administration - FDA, in vitro diagnostics - for daily clinical use. In addition, in Europe the gene-signature is currently being tested in a large prospective trial of the BIG group, under the leadership of EORTC: the results of this trial are expected to confirm and further improve this prognostic test. The implementation of this test into daily clinical practice, can reduce the amount of so-called adjuvant treatments with chemotherapy for - pre-menopausal - breast cancer patients by up to 30 percent.

The ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award has been set up to recognize the vital work carried out into research of targeted therapies and is open to all international research groups with demonstrated commitment to breast cancer treatment and research. As winner of the ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award, the Netherlands Cancer Institute will receive an independent research grant of 50.000 euro from ESMO to put towards their work. This award was made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from GSK.

"GSK is proud to support ESMO on this award, which aims to advance research on targeted cancer therapies - agents that are transforming the way we manage cancer and that continue to provide measurable benefits for cancer patients around the world", stated Dr. Paolo Paoletti, Senior Vice President of the Oncology Medicine Development Center at GSK.

"The Netherlands Cancer Institute is becoming a real leader in the field of molecular research. The work of the team will have a strong impact on cancer treatment and ESMO is pleased to honour them with this award", stated Professor Mellstedt, ESMO President, who is personally handing over the award to the institute representatives.

The ESMO Conference Lugano - ECLU 2007 - represents the new direction ESMO has given to the scientific and educational meeting previously known as the ESMO Summer Educational Conference (ESEC). It will be held every July under the auspices of the City of Lugano, hometown to the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

Around 1000 young oncologists, senior oncologists and cancer health care professionals are attending sessions on the latest developments in multi-disciplinary oncology which cover progress in cancer research and promising new technologies. International cancer specialists are highlighting progress on important topics such as pharmacogenomics, molecular diagnostics, molecular-targeted therapies, new frontiers in response evaluation, cancer prevention and state-of-the-art oncology at its finest. Each Conference will also include a session on a specific topic, which in 2007 is the important issue of cancer prevention.

Leslie Versweyveld

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