Albert Szent-Gyrgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research to Harvard's Harold F. Dvorak, M.D.

Dvorak, M.D. and his colleagues were the first to show that tumor cells secreted VPF and that a blocking antibody to VPF could prevent the devastating edema and fluid accumulation characteristic of ovarian, breast, and many other human cancers. This discovery laid the foundation and also provided the molecular basis for the entire angiogenesis field and what is now one of modern medicines most promising anti-cancer hopes. In 1986, Dr. Dvorak went on to demonstrate in the journal Cancer Research that VPF was secreted by a variety of human tumor cell lines and proposed that VPF was in part responsible for the abnormal vasculature seen in human tumors. As a result, he and other investigators demonstrated that VPF was capable of stimulating endothelial cell growth and angiogenesis. These fundamental discoveries led to additional research conducted by Dr. Napoleone Ferrara and his lab confirming the cloning of VPF and renaming the protein Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor or VEGF. Ferrara and his colleagues later developed an inhibiting antibody against VEGF that has demonstrated outstanding clinical anti-tumor activity.

In another 1986 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine Dvorak proposed that by secreting VPF tumors induce angiogenesis by turning on the wound healing response. He noted that wounds, like tumors, secrete VPF, causing blood vessels to leak plasma fibrinogen which stimulates blood vessel growth and provides a matrix on which they can spread. Unlike wounds however that turn off VPF production after healing, tumors did not turn off their VPF production and instead continued to make large amounts of VPF, allowing malignant cells to continue to induce new blood vessels and so to grow and spread. Thus, tumors behave as wounds that fail to heal. This work is again extremely significant for patients worldwide, as Dr. Dvorak's scientific research is leading his colleagues all over the world to examine how to treat a tumor through its blood supply.

Contact: Silas Deane
National Foundation for Cancer Research

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