July, 2024
July 2024
UCLA oncologist Dr. Dennis Slamon has been awarded Szent-Györgyi Prize for groundbreaking research discoveries
Jun 9, 2024, 14:52

UCLA oncologist Dr. Dennis Slamon has been awarded Szent-Györgyi Prize for groundbreaking research discoveries

Dr. Dennis Slamon, a world-renowned oncologist and scientist whose groundbreaking research has transformed the treatment of breast cancer, has been awarded the 2024 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research from the National Foundation for Cancer Research.

The prize has been awarded annually since 2006 to honor an outstanding scientist whose body of work has had a lasting impact on the understanding of cancer, significantly improving or saving the lives of people with the disease.

The foundation recognized Slamon for his seminal contributions to cancer research that helped shape the field of precision medicine in breast cancer and paved the way for the development of other targeted therapies in oncology.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award. This recognition is not just for me, but for the countless researchers, clinicians, and especially the brave women who have participated in our clinical trials.

Together, we have changed the landscape of breast cancer treatment and continue to work on developing cancer treatments that can move from the bench to the bedside more rapidly,” – said Slamon, Director of clinical and translational research at the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and Chief of Hematology/Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.


Slamon first identified the HER2 gene, which is overexpressed in about 25-30% of breast cancer cases and is associated with a more aggressive form of the disease. This non-inherited genetic change defined a new subtype of breast cancer.

This research and subsequent clinical trials led by Slamon resulted in the development of the breast cancer drug Herceptin, the first gene-based drug to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fight cancer. Since its introduction in 1998, Herceptin has become a cornerstone in the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer, benefiting millions of women worldwide.

“Dr. Slamon created a new paradigm for modern translational cancer research. His discoveries emphasized the importance of targeting the molecular mechanism, not the histology of cancer, which has become the basis for most new cancer treatments.

He has inspired physicians and investigators, including myself, to look beyond their existing assumptions to find more effective ways to treat people with cancer,” – said Dr. Michael Teitell, Director of the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In addition to Herceptin, Slamon and his team also spearhead the development of the initial targeted inhibitor of CDK-4/6, palbociclib (Ibrance), which was approved by the FDA for women with advanced estrogen receptor-positive, HER-2-negative breast cancer, the most common subtype of the disease.

Palbociclib targets CDK-4/6, a critical enzyme that is involved in regulating cell division, preventing the cells from dividing. The use of palbociclib and others drugs in its class has doubled the number of women with the disease who live without any recurrence of the cancer – the largest improvement since the introduction of hormone therapy for breast cancer in the early 1970s.

“I can think of none finer to receive the 2024 Szent Györgyi Prize than Dr. Slamon. The scientific and medical advances he has made for women with breast cancer have created a new paradigm for treatment options and resulting survival rates.

I have known of Dr. Slamon’s research for some time and have sincerely admired his approaches, how he thinks differently than others in the field, and his tenacity to tackle the clinical trial process head on to produce results for patients,” – said Dr. Isaac Witz, Chair of the 2024 Selection Committee and 2023 Szent-Györgyi Prize Winner in the National Foundation for Cancer Research’s announcement.

“Dr. Slamon epitomizes our vision of a Szent-Györgyi Prize winner. One of my favorite quotes from our co-founder Albert Szent-Györgyi is ‘to see what others have seen but to think differently than anybody else has thought.’ Dr. Slamon has done just this through his research around the amplification of the HER2 gene, which shed even more light on cancer being a genetic disease and paved the way for a completely new set of targeted treatments for breast cancer patients.

Over time as his research produced more and more positive results for cancer patients, many of his research and medical peers began to adopt the viewpoint of ‘breast cancer before Dennis and after Dennis.’ We could not be more proud to have Dr. Slamon as our 2024 Szent-Györgyi Prize winner,” said Dr. Sujuan Ba, NFCR’s President and CEO and the Co-Chair of the 2024 Szent-Györgyi Prize Selection Committee.

The Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research, named in honor of Albert Szent-Györgyi, Nobel laureate and co-founder of National Foundation for Cancer Research, will be presented to Slamon at The National Press Club in Washington, DC on Oct. 18 during the Szent-Györgyi Prize Dinner and Award Ceremony, the foundation’s signature event of its daylong Global Summit and Award Ceremonies for Cancer Research and Entrepreneurship.

The award highlights the foundation’s investment in funding long-term and transformative pioneering research that will produce scientific breakthroughs and promote public awareness of the importance of basic cancer research.

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