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Maura L. Gillison, M.D., Ph.D., Receives AACR’s Richard Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award for her HPV research

Wed, Jul 25, 2012

Oral Cancer News

CHICAGO — The American Association for Cancer Research  awards Maura L. Gillison, M.D., Ph.D., with the 36th Annual AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award during the AACR Annual Meeting 2012. Gillison is receiving this award in recognition of her significant contributions to the understanding of the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in head and neck cancers.

“It is an honor to be the recipient of this award,” said Gillison. “Our team strives to generate data that will improve the lives of individuals affected by head and neck cancers, and this is a wonderful validation that we are on the right track.”

This award is designed to provide incentive to young investigators early in their careers. It was established in 1977 by the AACR and the Rosenthal Family Foundation to recognize research that has made, or promises to make, a notable contribution to improved clinical care in the field of cancer.

Gillison is a professor of medicine, epidemiology and otolaryngology and the Jeg Coughlin Chair of Cancer Research at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio. She is also adjunct faculty at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, Md. Her seminal research on the role of HPV in head and neck cancers revolutionized the specialty. Her research has demonstrated that HPV infection causes a distinct molecular, clinical and pathological subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.

In a landmark case-control study, Gillison identified oral sexual behavior and HPV infection as risk factors for oropharyngeal cancer, findings that led the International Agency for Research on Cancer to formally recognize HPV-16 as a significant cause of oropharyngeal cancers.

Results of other key studies conducted by Gillison and her colleagues showed that tumor HPV status is one of the single greatest predictors of survival in head and neck cancer. As a result, multiple organizations now advocate routine HPV testing of oropharyngeal cancer patients. Clinical trial designs have also been amended to adopt HPV testing as a means by which to stratify various cancer subsets, allowing for better targeted therapies and treatment regimens. Additionally, Gillison established the gold standard of HPV diagnostic tests, currently in use within clinics nationwide. Currently, she is the principal investigator of the first phase III trial focused on HPV-positive head and neck cancers, which began enrolling patients in 2011.

Gillison has led several studies in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that have examined the effects of HPV infection on head and neck cancer at the population level. She has also been the leader in development of methods for oral HPV detection, which will facilitate the development of primary and secondary prevention strategies for the cancer she characterized.

Gillison’s work has had, and will continue to have, significant public health implications. Her group’s recent research established that HPV has been the cause of a dramatic increase in the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer in the United States during the last 20 years.

Currently, the burden of HPV-caused cancers is shifting from women to men, a trend that is anticipated to continue throughout the next decade. In 2011, such data were presented to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which now recommends that all preteen boys aged 11 to 12 be vaccinated against HPV.

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One Response to “Maura L. Gillison, M.D., Ph.D., Receives AACR’s Richard Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award for her HPV research”

  1. Brian Hill Says:

    Dr. Gillison has been a long time friend, early member of the OCF Science Advisory Board, a patient educator and significant aid to my personal understanding of the HPV paradigm as it relates to oropharyngeal cancers, (I can be a difficult student and not always the sharpest pencil in the cup…) and collaborator with the foundation as we roll out positions to vaccinate males, or get clinical trials done at the NIH. My personal relationship with the doctor goes back to her seminal presentation at the 1999 ASCO meeting which linked HPV and oral cancers together – there I finally discovered how as a never smoker, I came to my disease.

    The relationship has been mutually beneficial. I and OCF are very proud that we have been financial contributors to many of her papers as the research and knowledge about everything from mechanisms of transfer, demographics of this new population of patients, and even survival advantages that this etiology contributes to are published. Last year (2011) was OCF’s largest year of financial assistance, as we became partners with Dr. Gillison, the National Cancer Institute and others in an important RTOG clinical trial that will look at less toxic chemotherapy possibilities for oropharyngeal SCC patients, and will, through a hundred especially programmed iPads provided by OCF, collect directly from patients information about their quality of life as they go through treatment. I have often been frustrated by the lack of interest during the treatment process of patient QOL issues by treatment facilities, and this data along with current trend to improve QOL for patients across the country, should see advances related to this issue implemented once this evidence is accumulated.

    OCF expends time and effort to see that Dr. Gillison’s work reaches the general public’s world. As each new scientific paper rolls out, our staff works hard to see that editors and writers at major newspapers and journals understand the importance of what they might normally view as esoteric scientific research, viewing it instead as important pubic health information that can be useful immediately to the average person. Outreach to the TV media is also done, resulting in stories in venues as diverse as Good Morning America to the Dr. Oz show.

    We congratulate Dr. Gillison on this much deserved accolade from an important scientific research organization. We know that as a young researcher, there will be many years of elucidating information coming from her team as the HPV etiology is explored, unraveled, and put into meaningful application in the lives of both the American public and cancer patients.


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