Campus & Community

AACR honors Alan D’Andrea

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Scientist studied rare cancer, which led to new insights into how cancer cells repair their DNA

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) presented Alan D. D’Andrea, the Alvan T. and Viola D. Fuller American Cancer Society Professor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, with the 52nd Annual AACR G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award for his work in understanding cancer survival and progression, which has included milestones such as cloning a key protein involved in red blood cell production and discovering a family of proteins that help maintain DNA stability.

The award, presented to D’Andrea at the AACR’s annual meeting in Chicago, recognizes a scientific odyssey that began with research into a rare pediatric cancer susceptibility syndrome — Fanconi anemia — and led to new insights into how cells repair their DNA and thereby ward off cancer.

In his acceptance speech, D’Andrea remarked: “I am greatly honored to receive the 2012 G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award from the AACR. Work from my laboratory has shown that the study of rare pediatric cancer susceptibility syndromes, such as Fanconi anemia, can lead to broad insights into the cause and treatment of cancer in the general population. My laboratory members and I are especially grateful to the children and families with Fanconi anemia who have been our close partners in this research during the last two decades.”

During his postdoctoral studies, D’Andrea cloned the erythropoietin (EPO) receptor, a key protein involved in red blood cell production (erythropoiesis) and survival. The receptor’s role in erythropoiesis offers a potential avenue for cancer therapeutics, as a blood supply is necessary for the growth and spread of cancer. D’Andrea continues to investigate the receptor in hematological malignancies, examining the ways that inherent (somatic) mutations and/or epigenetic modifications of the receptor affect its downstream, intracellular signaling pathways including JAK/STAT (Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription) and MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase).

The AACR & Eli Lilly and Co. established the G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award in 1961 to honor G.H.A. Clowes, a founding member of the AACR. This honor recognizes an individual with outstanding recent accomplishments in basic cancer research.

“Dr. D’Andrea has been a vital contributor to cancer research,” said Margaret Foti, chief executive officer of the AACR. “His work has greatly enhanced our knowledge of the field of DNA instability and repair mechanisms. Furthermore, his studies have provided us with a better understanding of the biological relationships of rare hereditary diseases, such as Fanconi anemia, and cancer.”