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.
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.
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
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.