The World Affairs Council is celebrating Connecticut’s global leadership in cancer research and innovation at the Luminary Award. The Council is proud to honor Yale Cancer Center, a ground-breaking center for global health, as the 2018 Luminary Award recipient.
Innovations made here in Connecticut impact health on a global scale. Through collaboration among world-class institutions of education, healthcare, bio-pharma, and research here in Connecticut, the state has developed a health ecosystem that enables scientific risk-taking and fosters a well-developed network of some of the world’s premier hospitals.
In this exemplary company, the Council is proud to highlight Yale Cancer Center. The Yale Cancer Center is one of the select few centers in the nation and the only one in southern New England designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute. Through pioneering research, health innovations, and breakthrough treatments, the Yale Cancer Center is leading the world in cancer research for the betterment and advancement of our global community.
Meet five extraordinary doctors and researchers from the Yale Cancer Center whose work is changing our world.
Lieping Chen, MD, PhD
United Technologies Corporation Professor in Cancer Research and Professor of Immunobiology, of Dermatology and Medicine, Yale School of Medicine; Co-Director, Cancer Immunology Program at Yale Cancer Center
An international leader in Cancer Immunology, Dr. Chen made the landmark discovery that defined a mechanism to harness the human immune system to attack cancer (PD-L1), which has revolutionized cancer immunotherapy and made immune therapies a reality on a global scale. His work in the discovery of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in cancer therapy was cited as the #1 breakthrough of the year in 2013 by the leading international journal, Science. No less importantly, Dr. Chen is building on this success by developing new targets for cancer immunotherapy, and he is starting new biotechnology companies in Connecticut that will develop the next generation of therapies. Dr. Chen has authored more than 300 scientific publications and has served on committees and advisory boards for state, federal, and international research organizations and pharmaceutical companies. His many honors include the William B. Coley Award (2014), the AAI-Steinman Award (2016), and the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (2017) for his world-renown discoveries.
Patricia LoRusso, DO
Professor of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine; Professor of Medicine; Associate Director for Experimental Therapy at Yale Cancer Center; Director of the Experimental Therapies Unit, Smilow Cancer Hospital
Recognizing the critical need for more effective cancer therapies, Dr. LoRusso is an internationally recognized expert in developing new cancer drugs through clinical trials and a world-renown, expert, compassionate physician who has delivered transformative new drugs for patients across the globe. Dr. LoRusso pioneered new methods for developing new cancer drugs and rapidly advanced these agents in clinical trials for patients. Dr. LoRusso was among a group of 15 top cancer researchers and physician-scientists who met in Washington with aides to Vice President Joe Biden to discuss his “moonshot” program to advance cancer treatment. She is recognized as a ‘transformational’ for her leadership role in cancer clinical trials. Dr. LoRusso has served as co-chair of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program Investigational Drug Steering Committee.
Joseph Schlessinger, PhD
William H. Prusoff Professor of Pharmacology; Chair, Department of Pharmacology, Yale School of Medicine; Co-Director, Yale Cancer Biology Institute
Dr. Schlessinger is a world-renown leader in the field of cancer pharmacology and drug development. During his 40-year scientific career, his laboratory has been focused primarily on elucidating the mechanisms of critical cellular signaling pathways and creating new drugs that target these pathways for the benefit of patients. Dr. Schlessinger has been a founding scientist for three biotechnology companies — SUGEN, Plexxikon, and Kolltan – which have pioneered innovation leading to robust R&D pipelines and several drugs that have revolutionized the care of patients across the globe. On the basis of his record of discovery and innovation, Dr. Schlessinger was elected to the National Academy of Science (founded by President Abraham Lincoln), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the European Molecular Biology Organization, and the Russian Academy of Science. He was named one of the top 100 most influential people in drug development and manufacture by the publication The Medicine Maker
Vincent DeVita, MD
Amy and Joseph Perella Professor of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine; Professor of Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health; Director, emeritus, Yale Cancer Center.
Dr. DeVita pioneered cancer chemotherapy, and he developed life-saving therapies which increased the cure rate for patients with advanced Hodgkin’s disease from nearly zero to over 70% and transformed the treatment for breast cancer, which remain in practice today. In 1980, the President of the United States appointed him Director of the National Cancer Institute and the National Cancer Program, a position he held until 1988 – where he transformed the National Cancer Institute into an organization that advanced cancer research on a global stage. Dr. DeVita was Physician-in-Chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and he was the Director of the Yale Cancer Center from 1993 to 2003. He has earned international recognition for his accomplishments as a pioneer in the field of Oncology. Dr. DeVita currently serves on the editorial boards of numerous scientific journals and is the author or co-author of more than 450 scientific articles. He founded the leading international textbook of Oncology, “Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology”, now in its 11th edition, and serves as Editor of The Cancer Journal. Dr. DeVita recently wrote a memoir entitled “The Death of Cancer: After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer is Winnable–and How We Can Get There”.
Joann Steitz, PhD
Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
As a college student in the 1960s, Joan Steitz never imagined herself as a top-flight scientist. Eventually, she worked with senior scientists in laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was befriended by James D. Watson, discoverer of DNA, and scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Today, Dr. Steitz is recognized as an international pioneer in understanding the role of RNA in biology and cancer development and progression. She discovered and defined the function of small ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) in pre-messenger RNA—the earliest product of DNA. Her breakthroughs into the previously mysterious processes involving DNA have clarified our understanding behind the formation of proteins and other biological processes, including the intricate changes that occur in cancer, the immune system and brain development. She previously chaired the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale. Among her many honors for her world renown research, Dr. Steitz has received La grande médaille 2013 de l”Académie des sciences from the Institut de France; the EMD Millipore Alice C. Evans Award from the American Academy of Microbiology; the Harden Jubilee Medal from the British Biochemical Society; the Rosalind E. Franklin Award for Women in Science from the National Cancer Institute;; the L’Oréal Award for Women in Science from UNESCO, and the National Medal of Science from the National Science Foundation. In addition, she was elected to the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, Academia Europaea, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the U.S. Institute of Medicine.