H. Robert Horvitz, professor of biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at MIT, is this year's recipient of the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation's Alfred P. Sloan Medal for the most outstanding recent contribution to basic science research related to cancer.
The 20th annual General Motors Cancer Research Foundation awards--international prizes for individual achievement in cancer research--were announced April 27 in New York. The medal, accompanied by $250,000, is one of the nation's largest scientific prizes.
Recognized were four scientists whose accomplishments have contributed to understanding the basic cellular biology of cancer, its cause and prevention or its diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Horvitz's discovery that programmed cell death is a genetically determined biological process is one of the most important discoveries in modern cell biology. The process by which cell death is controlled adds to the understanding of how benign cells can undergo malignant transformation.
Dr. Horvitz's molecular genetic studies of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans led to the identification of a large number of genes that drive cells to die or protect them from dying. Similar genes are present in many higher species, including humans.
"I am greatly honored by this award, which I regard as a recognition of the efforts, insights and accomplishments of the many outstanding young scientists who have worked in my laboratory over the years," Dr. Horvitz said.
The GM Cancer Research Foundation, established in 1978, has to date awarded more than $8 million to 79 scientists to focus worldwide scientific and public attention on the progress being made in cancer research.
The foundation sponsors an annual international scientific conference at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. This year's conference, "Developmental Biology and Cancer," will be held June 9-10. Following the conference, the winners of this year's General Motors Cancer Research Foundation prizes will deliver lectures describing their research. The awards will be presented June 10 during a ceremony at the Library of Congress.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 6, 1998.