Tony Hunter, Brian Druker and John Mendelsohn have won this year’s Tang Prize in biopharmaceutical science for their breakthroughs in developing targeted cancer therapies, the Tang Prize Selection Committee announced yesterday.
Their research and findings of protein tyrosine phosphorylation and tyrosine kinases as oncogenes have led to successful targeted cancer therapies, the committee said.
The three winners, all Americans, have shown how basic science can lead to clinical applications that benefit humankind, said Chang Wen-chang (張文昌), a member of Academia Sinica and the convener of the selection committee.
Hunter demonstrated that a mechanism called tyrosine phosphorylation acts as a master on/off switch for a number of key proteins that are critical for successful cancer therapies, the committee said.
Hunter, a professor of biology at the Salk Institute, gave birth to the field of targeted therapies after discovering in 1979 the mechanism of tyrosine phosphorylation and that the oncogene Src is a tyrosine kinase.
The historic discovery paved the way for active research in the following two decades on tyrosine kinase oncogenes, ultimately leading to the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).
Based on Hunter’s discovery, Druker, the director of Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute, led the successful clinical trial of a cancer-fighting drug called imatinib.
The drug turned chronic myelogenous leukemia, a cancer that once had a very low survival rate, into a manageable condition.
Gleevec, a brand of imatinib, shuts off oncogenic signals by inhibiting Abl-protein tyrosine kinases as predicted by Hunter’s original research, the committee said.
Gleevec has also been successfully used in the treatment of acute lymphocytic leukemia and certain types of gastrointestinal stromal tumors by inhibiting other tyrosine kinase oncoproteins.
There are more than 26 TKIs that have been approved for clinical use. All of the discoveries have Druker’s first successful trials to thank because they spurred this still burgeoning targeted therapy era, the committee said.
John Mendelsohn, president emeritus of MD Anderson Cancer Center, took another approach to combating cancer.
An alternative way of shutting off the activities of tyrosine kinases on the cell surface (receptor tyrosine kinase) is to develop antibodies against the extracellular domain of the receptor, the committee said.
In such a way, the natural ligand, or growth factor, can no longer bind and the receptor tyrosine kinase is no longer activated. Mendelsohn and his team came up with the idea that antibodies targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) may be an effective strategy for cancer treatment.
Mendelsohn led his team in conducting preclinical research and proceeded to develop the anti-EGFR antibody cetuximab, which eventually won the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval for the treatment of colon cancer and head/neck cancer.
Taiwan does not exclude the possibility of having formal diplomatic relations with countries that also have formal ties with China, regardless of Beijing’s stance, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said on Sunday. There was speculation in 2012 that Honduras was attempting to have simultaneous diplomatic relations with Taiwan and China, an idea that then-minister of foreign affairs David Lin (林永樂) rejected. Honduras severed formal ties with Taiwan on Sunday morning after establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing. President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has taken a more practical approach to relations with like-minded countries since assuming government in 2016. Previous administrations took the
Seven senior faculty members, including the principal, of a high school in Taichung were temporarily suspended from their jobs on Friday, pending an investigation by the Taichung Education Bureau into alleged bullying and abuse that led to the suicide of a student last month. The city’s education officials were too slow to suspend those involved, the student’s father told a news conference on Wednesday, at which Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chang Liao Wan-chien (張廖萬堅) and members of the Humanistic Education Foundation were also present. The boy had been a good student and a high achiever during elementary and junior-high, and had
Taiwan would have established formal relations with Argentina long ago if not for China’s interference, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Yui told US-based Spanish-language online news outlet Infobae in an interview published on Tuesday. Beijing has left behind a string of unfulfilled promises in Latin America, including pledges to build the Grand Nicaragua Canal and airports, docks, ports and industrial zones in El Salvador, he said. Meanwhile, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and other countries enjoy pragmatic and improving relations with Taiwan based on cooperation on the economy, culture, technology and science, he said. While Taiwan is “happy to live and let live,”
WASHED ASHORE: Of the 16 bodies discovered along Taiwan’s west coast this month, two were Vietnamese and five were Taiwanese, coast guard officials said Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said that he has instructed prosecutors and maritime authorities to launch investigations after 16 bodies were found along Taiwan’s west coast this month, amid speculation that they were victims of smuggling or human trafficking rings. Coast Guard Administration (CGA) officials said the bodies, most of which had washed ashore, were found by coast guard personnel and local residents along the coastline from Keelung to Kaohsiung. Thirteen of the bodies are male and three are female, the CGA said, adding that items found on the bodies indicate that two of the men were Vietnamese, while three men