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The 2016 iCMLf Rowley Prize is awarded to Professors Groffen and Heisterkamp

John Groffen

Nora Heisterkamp

In 2016 the iCMLf Directors and a panel of previous prize winners, have named two renowned scientists as the recipients of the 2016 Rowley Prize: Professor John Groffen and Professor Nora Heisterkamp. This prestigious award celebrates the people who have made outstanding lifetime contributions to the understanding of the biology of CML.

Dr Groffen and Dr Heisterkamp are recognised as co-discoverers of the genes that are directly involved in the t(9;22) Philadelphia (Ph) translocation found in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). They localized the human c-ABL gene on chromosome 9 and molecularly cloned and mapped the gene. By isolation of breakpoint fragments, they showed that the ABL gene becomes fused to sequences on the Ph-chromosome in CML. They molecularly cloned this region on chromosome 22 and named it the “breakpoint cluster region" (BCR) gene. Further studies with null mutant bcr mice were undertaken to elucidate the normal cellular function of Bcr.

They also provided evidence that a chimeric BCR/ABL mRNA is made which is translated into a Bcr/Abl fusion protein and identified Crkl as a substrate of the tyrosine kinase activity of Bcr/Abl. Studies with BCR/ABL transgenic mice demonstrated that Bcr/Abl is directly responsible for the development of leukemia. These historical milestones of CML research ultimately led to the development, by others, of a small molecule inhibitor of Bcr/Abl tyrosine kinase activity, which was the first rationally designed cancer therapeutic.

John Groffen and Nora Heisterkamp have worked on basic mechanisms of leukemia and immunology since the 1980s. They now conduct research at the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, USA. Major fields of basic research interest include glycobiology and signal transduction underlying oncogenesies, cell growth and differentiation. Translational interests include studies to identify novel targets for treatment of Ph-positive and other leukemias; interaction of leukemia cells with the bone marrow microenvironment, and natural killer cell-based therapy for leukemias.

John Groffen received a Drs. degree from the University of Groningen, a doctorate from the University of Rotterdam (The Netherlands) and further trained at the National Institute of Medical Research, Research Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Mill Hill, UK.

Nora Heisterkamp obtained a Drs. degree from the University of Groningen and a doctorate from the University of Rotterdam (The Netherlands). She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Carcinogenesis Mechanisms and Control Section, Laboratory of Viral Carcinogenesis at the National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health (USA).

Learn more about John Groffen here and here

Learn more about Nora Heisterkamp here

An abstract of Nora Heisterkamp and John Groffen's keynote lecture when accepting the award can be found here.