WASHINGTON — Carl June, MD, director of Translational Research for the Abramson Cancer Center and a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania, has been named among the top three winners of the inaugural Clinical Research Forum Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards for his work treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia using genetically engineered versions of patients' own T cells, which multiply in the body as "serial killer" cells aimed at cancerous tumors. His team's findings, which have drawn a new map for the treatment of ovarian and pancreatic cancers and mesothelioma, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine in August 2011.
The Clinical Research Forum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing national leadership in clinical research and promoting understanding of its impact on health and health care delivery, hails the winning studies as being "remarkable for their bold approaches, innovation and potential for alleviating human suffering." The projects are compelling examples of the scientific innovation that results from the nation's investment in clinical research that can benefit human health and welfare, underscoring the importance of this support even in lean economic times.
The winning studies are the latest in a long tradition of notable health advances — such as eliminating polio and improving cancer survival rates — that were propelled by combined investment in basic science and clinical research. Collectively, the work was funded by a range of federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as many foundations and corporations. June's research was funded by the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, a foundation started by Penn graduates, Barbara and Edward Netter, to promote gene therapy research to treat cancer, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
"Clinical research is key to our efforts to turn discoveries into health, serving as the bridge between advances in basic scientific understanding and the development of new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. "NIH is a major supporter of clinical research and I am delighted to see this important field get the recognition it so richly deserves."
Winning researchers will be honored April 18 during the Clinical Research Forum annual meeting and awards dinner in Washington, D.C., where they will also present their work.
June's collaborators include David Porter, Bruce Levine, Michael Kalos, Adam Bagg and Sharyn Katz, all from Penn, and Stephan Grupp from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.