Breast unit scores award hat trick

09 September 2014

A leading breast cancer researcher is the latest recipient of a prestigious award for clinical research.

Professors Mitch Dowsett, Trevor Powles and Ian Smith
From left: Professors Mitch Dowsett, Trevor Powles and Ian Smith

Professor Mitch Dowsett, Head of the Academic Department of Biochemistry and Head of the Centre for Molecular Pathology at The Royal Marsden follows in the footsteps of Professor Ian Smith, Head of the Breast Unit, and Professor Trevor Powles, previous head of the unit before he retired, by winning the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research.

These three pioneering Royal Marsden professors, who have all changed the face of breast cancer medicine, are the only cancer specialists in the UK to receive this prestigious award.

Professor Dowsett was recognised for his contributions in understanding the hormonal basis of oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer, and translating this knowledge to the clinic in order to improve the efficacy of treatment and prevention of breast cancer.

His translational approach to studying the endocrine aspects of breast cancer and biomarkers for breast cancer prognosis and treatment has led to the implementation of key treatments and identification of tumour markers that have advanced breast cancer care.

Professor Dowsett will now deliver a keynote lecture on Wednesday 10 December at the 37th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, a major international gathering of breast cancer specialists from around the world.

Professor Dowsett said: “I’m delighted and honoured to receive the prestigious Brinker Award and to be part of a breast unit that is leading the way in breast cancer medicine.”

The Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction were established in 1992 to recognise the efforts of pioneers in two critically important areas of the fight to end breast cancer: clinical research and basic science.

A history of success

In 2009, Professor Ian Smith, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Head of the Breast Unit, was recognised with the Brinker Award for his work in the early clinical development of several anti-cancer drugs and in neoadjuvant – or preoperative – treatments. This included drugs that fight hormone-sensitive breast cancers such as letrozole, which was largely developed at The Royal Marsden by Professor Smith and Professor Mitch Dowsett.

Professor Smith said: “The outlook for breast cancer is improving all the time. For many years, the Breast Unit at The Royal Marsden has pioneered life-changing research so that new and better treatments are available for women with breast cancer. For three of its members to have received the Brinker Award is unique.” 

In 2005, Professor Trevor Powles, a Consultant Medical Oncologist and formerly the Head of the Breast Unit, was the first Royal Marsden specialist to receive the Brinker Award. He was recognised as one of the first specialist breast medical oncologists in the world and his primary research focused on breast cancer prevention and early treatment, including prevention of bone metastases.

He said: “It is an extraordinary achievement that The Royal Marsden Breast Unit has won three Brinker Awards – only two other researchers in Europe have won this award.”