William Kaelin, a scientist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is among the first winners of the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City.
The prize was established this year to recognize discoveries by cancer researchers under the age of 45. Named for Paul A. Marks, president emeritus of Sloan-Kettering, the prize honors significant contributions to the basic understanding and treatment of cancer.
A Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Dana-Farber, Kaelin is also an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is one of four young cancer researchers across the country to receive this year’s Marks prize, which includes a $125,000 cash award to be shared by the recipients.
“As much as I’m elated to receive this award, it belongs equally to the many young people who have worked in my laboratory over the years and made discoveries there,” Kaelin said. “It’s very rewarding to have our work recognized this way.”
Kaelin’s research centers on a condition called von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease, a rare disorder in which people develop knots of blood vessels that can rupture and bleed or damage nearby organs. The disease is caused by a single abnormal gene inherited by only one in 32,000 people worldwide. Kaelin has studied the disorder to gain insights into cells’ use of oxygen investigations that may aid efforts to shrink tumors by choking off their blood supply.
The recipients of the Marks prize “are still young, but they already are leaders in the field of cancer research,” said Joan Massague, who leads Sloan-Kettering’s cell biology program and served on the prize committee. “Each of the four winners has made important contributions toward our understanding of cell division, cell death, and malignant transformation. The committee is very excited about honoring their work because they represent a new generation of leaders in cancer research.”
Winners of the Marks prizes, who were honored with a dinner on Dec. 18, spoke about their work at a public symposium at Sloan-Kettering’s Rockefeller Research Laboratories building on Dec. 19.