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Weissman receives Brupbacher Prize, McEwen Award

Stem cell pioneer Irving Weissman was recognized with the Brupbacher Prize for isolating cancer stem cells, as well as with the McEwen Award for his research on adult stem cells from a variety of human tissues and cancers.

- By Krista Conger

Irving Weissman

Irving Weissman, MD, was awarded the Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Prize for Cancer Research on Jan. 29 during an international symposium titled “Breakthroughs in Cancer Research and Therapy” in Zurich.

Weissman, who directs the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, was honored for his role in identifying and isolating the first hematopoetic, or blood-forming, stem cell in mice in 1988, and then in humans in 1992. In 2000, he also isolated leukemia cancer stem cells from humans. Recently, he and his colleagues have devoted themselves to understanding how cancer cells escape destruction by the immune system by expressing a “don’t eat me” signal on their cell membranes.

“His discoveries on aging processes in stem-cell systems and ultimately his contribution toward understanding cancer stem cells and the way in which the immune system can control these cells are pioneering achievements with far-reaching clinical implications,” Markus Manz, director of the Department of Hematology at the University Hospital Zurich, said of Weissman at the symposium.

Weissman, a professor of pathology and of developmental biology, is also the director of Stanford’s Ludwig Center for Cancer Stem Cell Research and Medicine and holds the Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Professorship in Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research.

For his work in understanding the genetic basis of cancer metastasis, cancer researcher Joan Massagué of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, also received the prize.

The prize, presented by the Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Foundation, included 100,000 Swiss francs, or about $108,000, for each recipient.

The Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Foundation was founded in 1991 by Brupbacher’s wife, Frederique, in honor of her late husband. This is the 12th time the prize, which is meant to recognize internationally acknowledged achievements in fundamental cancer research, has been awarded. Brupbacher was a Swiss banker, economist and international currency expert.

McEwen Award

In addition to the Brupbacher Prize, it was recently announced that Weissman will receive the McEwen Award for Innovation, supported by the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto. The award will be presented in June at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Stockholm. It will recognize the work of Weissman and Hans Clevers, MD, PhD, of the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, in the identification, purification and characterization of adult stem cells from a variety of human tissues and cancers. Weissman and Clevers will share a $100,000 award.

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