Dr. Horwitz was selected to receive the Distinguished Achievement Award by an independent panel of her peers, in a process in which Bristol-Myers Squibb takes no active role. The Award is a $50,000 cash prize and a silver commemorative medallion. Eighteen previous grant and award winners have also won Nobel Prizes.
While paclitaxel, found in the bark of the Pacific yew tree, was first identified in the early 1970's as a compound with a unique chemical structure and anti-tumor activity, it was not until Dr. Horwitz and her colleagues identified its singular mechanism of action for slowing tumor growth that the National Cancer Institute decided to undertake clinical trials, leading to its development and approval to treat a wide range of tumor types. Dr. Horwitz discovered that paclitaxel works by binding to microtubules, structures found in all cells and important in a wide range of cellular functions, including cell division. By stabilizing microtubules and thereby interfering with the normal functions of microtubules, paclitaxel in effect can halt or impede uncontrolled cancer cell growth. Today, paclitaxel remains widely used in the treatment of many types of pervasive tumors, including ovarian, breast and non-small cell lung cancers.
Since her groundbreaking discoveries, Dr. Horwitz has moved on to focus on the mechanisms of drug resistance, an increasingly serious problem in cancer treatment, and on to other anti-tumor agents that may be able to specifically overcome paclitaxel-drug resistance.
"Dr. Horwitz's pioneering research and critical insights into the mechanisms of action of paclitaxel more than two decades ago propelled it into clinical development by the National Cancer Institute, where it was ultimately shown to be a highly effective cancer drug that has had a profound effect on enhancing and extending the lives of thousands of cancer patients around the world," said Robert A. Kramer, Ph.D., vice president, Oncology and Immunology Discovery Biology, Bristol-Myers Squibb. "That achievement alone should have been sufficient to grant this award. Yet Dr. Horwitz has gone well beyond that research in the years since. The emergence of drug resistant cancer cells that develop after treatment with effective therapies such as paclitaxel have plagued patients and physicians, spurring researchers to study the mechanisms of cancer drug resistance in order to seek methods or agents to restore a tumor's ability to respond to chemotherapy. As one of the world's leading molecular pharmacologists, Dr. Horwitz has been in the forefront of that effort. By so doing, she is continuing to extend her research and the reach of her contributions to new frontiers and discoveries that will benefit humankind."
Dr. Horwitz received her B.A from Bryn Mawr College and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Brandeis University. She joined the Albert Einstein College of Medicine faculty in 1968, was named assistant professor of pharmacology in 1970 and became a professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology in 1980 and the co-chair of that department in 1985. Dr. Horwitz was appointed Rose C. Falkenstein Professor of Cancer Research in 1986 and Associate Director for Therapeutics at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center in 2000. She holds all three positions today.
Dr. Horwitz is a past-president of the American Association for Cancer Research. She has received numerous honors and awards including the Cain Memorial Award of the American Association for Cancer Research in 1992, the ASPET Award for Experimental Therapeutics in 1994, the C. Chester Stock Award from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 1996, the Barnard Medal of Distinction in 2003, and the Mayor's Award for Excellence in Science & Technology in 2004. Dr. Horwitz was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005. Also in 2005, she received the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize from Harvard Medical School. She is a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors of the National Cancer Institute, of the Yale Cancer Center Scientific Advisory Board and of the Stony Brook Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery Advisory Board.
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