NFCR, Author at NFCR


2018 Szent-Györgyi Prize Invite

2018 Szent-Györgyi Prize will be awarded to Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., and John T. Schiller, Ph.D. for the development of vaccines for human papilloma virus (HPV).

Saturday May 5th, 2018
6:00 pm

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20004

About the Prize:
Every year, the Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research honors a scientist who made an original discovery or breakthrough in scientific understanding that has had a lasting impact on the cancer field and a direct impact of saving people’s lives. Read more about the Szent-Györgyi Prize  >>

About 2018 Winners:
2018 Szent-Györgyi Prize is awarded to a duo of oncology vaccine pioneers at the National Cancer Institute – Dr. Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., and John T. Schiller, Ph.D. – for development of vaccines for human papilloma virus(HPV). Read more about 2018 winners >>

If you have questions or need more information please contact:
Brian Wachtel 


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Duo of Oncology Vaccine Pioneers at the National Cancer Institute to Receive 2018 Annual Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research

February 15, 2018

Bradley Gillenwater, Senior Director for Global Programs & Communications

First Occasion for Award to Recognize Extraordinary Contributions in Cancer Prevention, Role of Vaccines

BETHESDA, MD – The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) announced today that the 2018 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research will be awarded to Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., and John T. Schiller, Ph.D., for development of vaccines for human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes 99% of cervical cancer cases. Collaborators for over 30 years at the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Lowy and Schiller developed the first Food and Drug Administration approved vaccines specifically targeting cancer.

The technology resulting from the tandem’s research, discovery and development efforts has been licensed to pharmaceutical corporations, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, and is marketed, respectively, as Gardasil®, Gardasil 9® and Cervarix®. According to NCI, widespread administration of any of these three vaccines could reduce the global incidence of new cervical cancer by two-thirds or more, representing at least 350,000 cases per year. The vaccines are also effective against rarer HPV-associated cancers of the penis, vagina and vulva, among others.  

Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women worldwide, and the second most frequent cause of cancer-related fatalities, accounting for nearly 300,000 deaths annually. The overwhelming majority of cases and deaths are in the developing world.

The 2018 Szent-Györgyi Prize’s selection committee was unanimous in its decision to recognize Lowy and Schiller, whose contributions in the fields of oncology and virology have changed the paradigm of cancer prevention, previously focused solely on lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and alcohol consumption. Not one, but two of their discoveries underpin all currently administered HPV vaccines worldwide. While either one of these breakthroughs elevates the reputations of the two scientists to commanding heights, the committee also acknowledged Lowy and Schiller’s comprehensive shepherding of their vaccine technology from theory to animal models, and onward through successful Phase I, II and III clinical trials, while continuing with Phase IV surveillance.

Working initially with the bovine papilloma virus, Lowy and Schiller applied their expertise to HPV. They were able to exploit the discovery that the L1 protein which comprises HPV’s outer layer can self-assemble and form “virus-like particles” which mimic the disease-causing agent but themselves are not infectious. These VLPs could induce HPV-neutralizing antibodies found to prevent cervical and other cancers.

Later, Lowy and Schiller resolved a major challenge to the prospect of commercial-scale HPV vaccine production. The L1 protein derived from the dominant HPV type 16 isolate used by investigators at the time yielded VLPs at a troublingly low rate. The two researchers proposed and proved the hypothesis that this low yield was due to a random mutation in the particular viral isolate they and their peers were studying. Screen and characterize another isolate, and the problem should be solved. It was. 

“Doctors Lowy and Shiller’s work has likely already prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths due to cervical cancer, and this is just the beginning,” said Michael N. Hall, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry, Biozentrum of the University of Basel, Switzerland, winner of the 2017 Szent-Györgyi Prize and chair of this year’s Prize selection committee. “They are true heroes in the fight against cancer.”

“Doug Lowy and John Schiller have had monumental impact in the field of cancer sciences and could not be more deserving of this award,” stated Sujuan Ba, Ph.D., co-chair of the 2018 Prize selection committee and President of NFCR. “Many thousands of women’s lives have already been saved and exponentially more productive, disease-free years gained as a result of these two giants of oncology and virology.”

“We are thrilled to have our work recognized by this prestigious award,” said Dr. Lowy, NCI Deputy Director and Chief of its Laboratory of Cellular Oncology (LCO). “As our discoveries wouldn’t have been possible without earlier breakthroughs, our work takes advantage of many advances in HPV and vaccine research.”

“To be included with this esteemed group of scientists who have won this award is a great honor,” stated Dr. Schiller, LCO Deputy Laboratory Chief, Chief of its Section of Neoplastic Disease and a National Institutes of Health Distinguished Investigator. “The exceptional discoveries of these luminaries have had a great impact on cancer treatment, diagnosis and prevention, and on saving lives.”

Doctors Lowy and Schiller will be honored at an award ceremony held Saturday, May 5th at The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. Media are invited and encouraged to attend.

About the Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research

The Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research was established in 2006 by the National Foundation for Cancer Research in honor of its co-founder, Albert Szent-Györgyi, M.D., Ph.D., recipient of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. The prize recognizes and honors scientists who have made seminal discoveries that have resulted in, or led toward significant contributions to, cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment with a high impact of saving people’s lives. Its past recipients (and their associated institutions at the time of the award) are:

  • Michael N. Hall, Ph.D., Biozentrum of the University of Basel, Switzerland, 2017
  • Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., University of Washington School of Medicine, 2016
  • Frederick W. Alt, Ph.D., Boston Children’s Hospital & Harvard Medical School, 2015
  • James Allison, Ph.D., University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 2014
  • Alex Matter, M.D., Experimental Therapeutics Centre & D3, A*STAR, Singapore, 2013
  • Zhen-Yi Wang, M.D., Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, 2012 (shared)
  • Zhu Chen, M.D., Ph.D., Chinese Ministry of Health, 2012 (shared)
  • Beatrice Mintz, Ph.D., Fox Chase Cancer Center, 2011
  • Peter K. Vogt, Ph.D., Scripps Research Institute, 2010
  • Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, 2009
  • Carlo M. Croce, M.D., The Ohio State University, 2008
  • Webster K. Cavenee, Ph.D., Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, University of California San Diego, 2007
  • Harold F. Dvorak, M.D., Harvard Medical School & Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 2006

Along with Doctors Hall and Ba, the 2018 Szent-Györgyi Prize’s selection committee included the following persons, each an authority in the field of cancer research:

  • Frederick W. Alt, Boston Children’s Hospital & Harvard Medical School
  • Mariano Barbacid, Spanish National Cancer Research Center
  • John Blenis, Weill Cornell Medical College
  • Webster K. Cavenee, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, University of California San Diego
  • Carlo M. Croce, The Ohio State University
  • Uta Francke, Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Tony Hunter, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
  • Mary-Claire King, University of Washington School of Medicine
  • Alex Matter, Experimental Therapeutics Centre & D3, A*STAR, Singapore
  • Thea Tltsy, University of California San Francisco
  • Peter K. Vogt, Scripps Research Institute

About the 2018 Prize Winners

Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., and John T. Schiller, Ph.D., colleagues at the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Laboratory of Cellular Oncology since 1983, have co-authored more than 150 publications related to the molecular biology, immunology, and epidemiology of the papilloma virus. Their accomplishments have been recognized by such other awards beyond the Albert Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research as the Albert Sabin Gold Medal Award (2011), the PhRMA Research and Hope Award (2013), the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama (2014) and the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (2017).

About the National Foundation for Cancer Research

The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides scientists in the lab the funding they need to make game-changing discoveries in cancer treatments, detection, prevention and, ultimately, a cure. It has distinguished itself in the cancer sector by emphasizing long-term, transformative research often overlooked by other major funding sources. With the help of more than 5.3 million individual donors over the last 45 years, NFCR has delivered more than $350 million in funding to public education and cancer research leading to several important, life-saving discoveries. For more information, visit


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Surviving Mesothelioma: How to Improve Your Energy Level

Guest Blog Post by John Daniels

Cancer claims the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide every year and is one of the top causes of death. Mesothelioma is a rare, incurable form of the disease, in which 80% of the cases result by asbestos exposure. 

But just because there’s no cure for the disease doesn’t mean people aren’t continuing to survive for years following diagnosis. While on average mesothelioma survivors are given 12-21 months to live, approximately 5-10% of those affected live for 5 or more years. Survival may even exceed 20 years.

The biggest obstacle to staying healthy as a mesothelioma patient is maintaining energy levels. Your body spends a lot of energy controlling the cancer growing inside. You need to keep your body strong, and here’s how to do it.

·         Exercise regularly. Light exercise on a daily basis is the key to stopping your body from wasting away. Yoga, taking regular walks and weight training are three options for maintaining your fitness. Studies have already shown that there is a connection between decreasing your risk of getting cancer and exercise. I strongly believe that it can only help with your recovery process to also exercise while trying to recover from cancer. Not just prior to being diagnosed with it.

·         Eat and drink right. What you eat will vastly determine exactly how high your energy levels are. Heavy foods, such as fast food, will make you feel more tired. Your body needs to spend energy in digesting that food over a few hours, without any real nutritional benefit. Rather, since you need to replenish your body’s energy levels, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. These are essential for your body when you’re suffering from cancer.

·         Don’t be afraid to rest. For many cancer sufferers, they know they need to stay active to bolster their health. But there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you need to rest. Taking regular naps during the day is recommended by doctors to prevent exhaustion and slow the spread of cancer. Don’t be afraid to admit when you need to rest.

·         Stay away from germs. The biggest threat for any mesothelioma sufferer is that they fall ill from an infection. Seasonal flu, for example, is nothing more than an inconvenience for the average person. But for the cancer sufferer, it could turn into a fatal illness. Remember that mesothelioma patients can’t be cured and their body is in an endless battle to protect itself. Falling ill is like opening up a second battlefield for your body. It’s often too much, especially since most mesothelioma sufferers are middle-aged to older people and the flu is already much more dangerous for those over 65. Rather, try to avoid germs. For example, carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with you at all times and resist the urge to touch surfaces in public spaces. You should also make an extra effort to stay away from people who are already suffering from an illness, including minor illnesses like colds and coughs.

·         Keep yourself busy. A mesothelioma sufferer who lives alone and only leaves the house to buy food and visit their doctor is less likely to have as long a life expectancy as another who fills their time with friends and fun. Depression is a common side effect for cancer sufferers, with 15-25% of cancer patients suffering from the mental illness. Studies have shown that this has the potential to delay recovery, and this is one reason why doctors encourage mesothelioma patients to keep themselves busy. Don’t underestimate how important it is to maintain your happiness levels. You can even combine the other suggestions offered above with this piece of advice to be social and get out into the world. For example, you may want to spend some time with your friends at the gym or cook a healthy meal together.

Last Word on the Importance of Keeping Energy Levels High

Your body needs help if it’s going to stop the spread of your mesothelioma. Remember that most people don’t survive longer than five years following their diagnosis. It’s my observation that those who have survived longer have made an extra effort to manage their body’s needs. If you eat right, rest well and stay active, you’re increasing your chances of living a happy and healthy life. Despite mesothelioma, adoption of a healthy, social lifestyle will maximize your life to the fullest.


Guest Blog Posts are occasional and designed to serve as a means for visitors to the National Foundation for Cancer Research’s website to learn from and engage with other cancer community members. Submissions are by invitation only, and edited by NFCR only for purposes of clarity, style and length, as well as basic grammar and spelling; not content or voice. The views expressed herein should not be construed as necessarily reflecting NFCR’s own or those or the scientific findings of its supported researchers.     

About the Author

John Daniels is an avid writer about and promoter of well- being and positive mental attitudes. He has written extensively about how a positive mind-set can achieve any goal you set, as well as how a healthy body can enhance that mind-set. He is an avid healthy eater as well as a regular gym goer and amateur strongman.




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Comfort Foods: Delicious Holiday Meals for Cancer Patients

As we deck the halls and prepare to gather with those we love, a festive and abundant meal will most likely be part of celebration plans. As a cancer patient or the loved one thereof, it’s best to be mindful of and intentional about the foods we eat and serve. Those with cancer can still use nutrition as a powerful tool for wellbeing even during the Holidays. While family members or friends of cancer patients have the opportunity to show support and be strong allies in providing a nourishing and welcoming environment.

What to Eat

For the cancer patient attending a Holiday function, it’s always important to use any meal as an opportunity to add nourishment and support to your digestive system. Cancer treatments weaken the body as they fight the disease. Many patients experience weight loss and the taste of foods is often altered by chemotherapy drugs. It’s important to know what to choose and how to eat when away from the comforts of your own home. Consider some of these easy ideas to make your Holiday gathering experience positively delicious:

  • Eat before you go. Where this may mean you’ve less appetite at the gathering, you will not go hungry or feel weak should you arrive to discover a lack of options.
  • Pack for your journey. In your purse or carry bag, bring a few small preferred snacks. A serving of nuts, berries, trail mix or even your preferred pre-made protein shake can bring comfort and sustenance.
  • Your taste buds may make former favorites seem unfamiliar—to salty or sweet. Crystal Langlois of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America suggests adding such neutralizers as honey or agave nectar, lemon or lime juice.
  • Be aware of possible spoilage. With a weakened immune response system, it’s best to avoid foods at risk of “turning,” like sushi, deviled eggs, and homemade eggnog. If you aren’t sure how long a food has been sitting out, ask your host. Consider instead foods like crackers, chips and salsa, nuts and cookies since they can sit out longer.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Enjoying a warm bowl of soup is a nutrient rich option.

Hosting with Care

When hosting a gathering whose guests will include cancer patients, consider these options:

  • Most cancer patients will readily inform of particular needs or aversions so that the host is sure to include their favorites or avoid their revulsions. But show the courtesy of initiating a discreet inquiry.
  • Choose healthier ingredient alternatives. For that soup, consider swapping evaporated skim milk for cream, or for that pie, perhaps applesauce and canola oil rather than butter.
  • Pour on the pomegranates which, studies have shown, contain at least six compounds that may prevent breast cancer growth by blocking aromatase, an enzyme that plays a key role in most forms of breast cancers.

In short, be cognizant of and incorporate optimal ingredients and foods when preparing Holiday meals among loved ones—cancer patients and otherwise.


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