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UCLA researcher awarded Sjöberg Prize for pioneering targeted breast cancer treatment

Dennis Slamon, director of the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Cancer Research Program, won an award from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Sweden’s Sjöberg Foundation for his pioneering research in targeted breast cancer treatments. (Courtesy of UCLA Newsroom)

By Emily MacInnis

Feb. 7, 2019 12:18 a.m.

A UCLA researcher won an award for his efforts to target and treat breast cancer.

Dennis Slamon, director of the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Cancer Research Program, won the Sjöberg Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Sweden’s Sjöberg Foundation. The prize aims to recognize advancements in cancer research and divides $1 million between the recipients, which includes $900,000 for future research, according to a university press release.

Slamon will receive $500,000, after dividing the prize with Brian Druker, a researcher at Oregon Health & Science University.

Slamon was an early researcher of targeted cancer treatments who began by identifying and treating specific genetic mutations that occur in cancer cells. His work has provided the foundation for many other targeted cancer treatments.

Slamon discovered HER2-positive, an aggressive subtype of breast cancer, in the early 1980s. In 1987, he identified the correlation between mutations in the HER2-positive gene and occurrences of the HER2-positive cancer subtype.

Later, he proved researchers could develop treatments to target the cancer directly if they find the genetic differences between normal cells and cancerous cells.

In 1998, Slamon developed trastuzumab, a breast cancer treatment drug known commercially as Herceptin, which targets a specific genetic mutation in cancer cells. Among women diagnosed with breast cancer, about 20 percent have the HER2-positive subtype. Herceptin allows patients with HER2-positive to live about 50 percent longer post-diagnosis. In the last 20 years, approximately three million women worldwide have received the drug.

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