Press Release


March 21, 2012

Two Cancer Researchers Receive Award for Work in Metastatic Melanoma


NEW YORK CITY—Two cancer researchers whose work led to the clinical breakthrough in metastatic melanoma by developing a targeted drug known as vemurafenib (Zelboraf) will receive the Sixth David T. Workman Memorial Award  at the Annual Scientific Symposium, which will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, at the Alexandria Center for Life Science. The two-year grant of $50,000 from the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation will be shared between Gideon Bollag, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Research, Plexxikon, and Keith Flaherty, M.D., Director of Developmental Therapeutics, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.

Metastatic melanoma is the sixth most common form of cancer and one of the fastest growing in incidence. Each year, an estimated 68,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the United States, with nearly 9,000 patients dying from the disease. Both Drs. Bollag and Flaherty helped to bring to market a drug that tested so well in clinic that they received expedited FDA approval for use in this deadly disease. Vemurafenib works to block a protein that promotes cancer cells in a specific genetic mutation known as B-RAF.

“The SWCRF is committed to bridging the gap between lab science and the patient to bring faster treatments to patients,” said Samuel Waxman, M.D., the Founder and the Scientific Director of the SWCRF. “The development of vemurafenib is a perfect illustration of the benefits of collaborative research.”

The Workman Award was established in 2002 as a two-year, $50,000 grant that recognizes the clinical development of novel therapies for unmet medical needs.

The Workman Award, which is given every two years, is named in honor of David T. Workman, a past Chairman of the SWCRF Board. Recipients of the Workman award include Alan Ashworth, Ph.D., FRS, for his work with PARP inhibitors in BRCA-mutated cancers, Stephen Baylin, M.D., and Peter Jones, Ph.D., for the development of demethylating agents and epigenetic therapy for hematologic malignancies, and Douglas Lowy, M.D., and John Schiller, Ph.D., for their advance in preventing cervical cancer with the HPV vaccine.