On March 16, more than 300 members of the Einstein community gathered in Robbins Auditorium for the ninth Marshall S. Horwitz Prize Lecture. The annual prize, which recognizes excellence in faculty research, was awarded to Dr. John Condeelis in recognition of his exceptional leadership in the fields of cancer biology, optical physics and biophysics.
The award was established in memory of Dr. Marshall S. Horwitz by his family and friends. A beloved member of the faculty, who died in 2005, Dr. Horwitz made more than four decades of invaluable contributions to research and medical education at Einstein. Dr. Pamela Stanley – also the previous year’s winner – shared her memories of Dr. Horwitz, describing him as a “renaissance man.” She noted, “As a researcher, physician, teacher, chair of microbiology & immunology and director of the infectious diseases division, Marshall wore many hats. He performed his multiple roles with enthusiasm, but never forgot to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.”
After a brief introduction by Dr. E. Richard Stanley, Dr. Condeelis delivered his prize lecture, “How Tumors Spread and How to Stop Them.”
The first part of his talk elaborated on metastasis – the spread of cancer cells to distant parts of the body – a process that presents one of the most serious challenges for identifying cancer therapies. Some of these cancer cells are able to penetrate blood vessels and migrate through the bloodstream.
Dr. Condeelis showed a video captured on a custom-built multiphoton microscope – which he described as being the size of a large SUV. The footage showed tumor cells moving toward blood vessels in a mouse model of breast cancer. His work on imaging live animals has led to the discovery of the tumor microenvironment of metastasis (TMEM) – a trio of a tumor cell, macrophage (a type of immune cell) and endothelial cell (present in the inner lining of blood vessels) ¬– that act as a “doorway” for tumor cells to enter blood vessels. The greater the number of TMEM in a cancer tissue, the greater the chances are of metastasis.
Based on this finding, Dr. Condeelis and his colleagues have developed a method for counting the number of TMEM in biopsy samples. Known as the TMEM test, this method is more accurate than the currently available tests in predicting whether breast cancers will spread.
In the second part of his lecture, Dr. Condeelis discussed his efforts to stop tumors from spreading. Often, after a tumor has been surgically removed, a small, undetectable mass of tumor gets left behind that continues to spread even when treated with chemotherapy.
Dr. Condeelis believes the answer to halting this spread lies in inhibiting TMEM function. “If you want to abate tumors from spreading, stop TMEM”, he noted.
With that goal in mind, his team is currently developing therapies that would target TMEM, with the aim of both shrinking the tumor and preventing it from spreading.
Following Dr. Condeelis’ lecture, Dr. Edward R. Burns, executive dean, presented him with the Horwitz Prize.
Horwitz Prize Honors Dr. John Condeelis' Contribution to Cancer
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