Samuel Waxman, M.D. received China’s “Friendship Award,” along with distinguished leaders in medicine, technology, and engineering
The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF), an international nonprofit organization that funds cutting-edge cancer research, today announced that its founder and CEO, Samuel Waxman, M.D. received China’s highest honor granted to a foreigner. The Vice-Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Liu He, presented the “Friendship Award,” to Dr. Waxman at a ceremony in Beijing over the weekend.
The award was established in China in 1991, and is conferred annually to foreign civilians who have made significant contributions to the country’s “national development.” This year, more than 50 individuals from more than 20 countries were presented with the Friendship Award and included experts in healthcare, engineering, and education.
More than 30 years ago, just as the United States and China governments began normalizing relations, Dr. Waxman started a collaboration with investigators at China’s cancer research universities and institutions including Shanghai Second Medical University, and Ruijin Hospital Shanghai Institute of Hematology (SIH).
“The SWCRF established a collaboration between my laboratory at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Shanghai-based scientists who previously had minimal contact with Western medicine. The SWCRF provided funding to train these scientists who then returned to China and became leading clinical investigators,” said Dr. Waxman. “The SWCRF also provided new laboratory equipment and materials, and upgraded the leukemia treatment facilities that became the Shanghai Institute of Hematology.”
Dr. Waxman and China-based investigators focused on researching leukemia and would achieve two significant breakthroughs that indelibly changed the outcome for thousands of patients diagnosed annually with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a once devastating subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
“One of our first landmark achievements was reported in a western journal in 1988 and was the first example of successfully using differentiation therapy as an emerging form of treatment for some cancers that was less toxic and more effective,” said Dr. Waxman. “Differentiation therapy started in my laboratory with the idea that it was possible to reverse the abnormal growth and function of a cancer cell, an idea that was radically distinctive from the conventional wisdom and treatments at the time.”
Although Dr. Waxman was a collaborator on the research, he elected to omit his name from the journal article since he wanted it to be a first all-Chinese landmark article to be published. “They looked at that as a very unusual gesture of a collaborator and more as a friend,” Dr. Waxman said.
Later, Dr. Waxman and the SWCRF established its Institute Without Walls™ to drive further collaboration with scientists in China, United States and Europe. One such partnership involved a 10-year research program funded by the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The collaboration between the SWCRF and labs in Shanghai for researching and developing Differentiation Therapy took it from proof of principle to the standard treatment for APL. It was once a fatal disease, and now more than 95 percent of patients are cured through Differentiation Therapy.
“This treatment is now standard throughout the world and can be considered a major achievement resulting from Chinese investigators working in collaboration with scientists in the United States and elsewhere. Today investigators with the Shanghai Institute of Hematology continue to exchange research with thirty investigators across the world within the SWCRF Institute Without Walls,” said Dr. Waxman.
Two of Dr. Waxman’s colleagues in China issued a joint statement of congratulations. “The Friendship Award is the highest-level recognition awarded by the Chinese government to foreign experts. The collaboration between the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation and Shanghai Institute of Hematology also serves as a paradigm for U.S.-China scientific cooperation,” said Chen Zhu, Ph.D., Minister of Health and professor of molecular biology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Saijuan Chen, M.D., Director of Shanghai Institute of Hematology.
“Dr. Waxman has made an outstanding contribution to the development of cancer research in China over the past 30 years, and this honor is well deserved. The success of targeted therapy for acute promyelocytic leukemia, which leads to a cure, owes much to his selfless contributions. We look forward to more fruitful collaborations between Chinese medical communities and Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation in cancer research,” said Dr. Zhu and Dr. Chen.
The SWCRF Institute Without Walls™ and Partnership for Aging and Cancer program are currently funding research of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with investigators at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Shanghai Institute of Hematology, and Shenyang Pharmaceutical University. AML is the most common form of leukemia that afflicts primarily older adults. SWCRF is also collaborating with the Shenyang Pharmaceutical University to develop a cancer drug to treat AML.
“This award demonstrates the boundless possibilities that can occur when people collaborate in an unselfish and productive manner. The success that we have had should not be a surprise since science is an international language and the pursuit for cancer cures is an international goal,” said Dr. Waxman. “We are in the midst of a cancer treatment revolution based on innovative science and contributions to this revolution comes from all parts of the world.”
Dr. Waxman was named Honorary Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and received the Magnolia Award from the city of Shanghai. Currently, he is a Distinguished Service Professor, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and continues to lead research on behalf of the SWCRF and serves as the foundation’s chief executive officer.
About Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation
The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation is an international organization dedicated to curing and preventing cancer. The Foundation is a pioneer in cancer research and its mission is to eradicate cancer by funding cutting-edge research that identifies and corrects abnormal gene function that causes cancer and develops minimally toxic treatments for patients. Through the Foundation’s collaborative group of world-class scientists, the Institute Without Walls, investigators share information and tools to speed the pace of cancer research. Since its inception in 1976, the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation has awarded more than $85 million to support the work of more than 200 researchers across the globe.
For more information on SWCRF, visit: www.waxmancancer.org
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