PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) announced today that John E. Dick, PhD, Fellow of the AACR Academy, will receive the inaugural AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Blood Cancer Research. The AACR established this award to recognize an individual for meritorious achievements and contributions to basic, translational, or clinical research related to blood cancer or associated disorders such as myelodysplastic syndrome or myeloproliferative neoplasms. Funding for this new award is being provided by an unrestricted educational grant from Pharmacyclics, an AbbVie Company and Janssen Biotech, Inc.
Dick is being honored for discovering and characterizing the mechanisms by which stem cells contribute to normal and leukemic hematopoiesis. He is widely recognized for his seminal discovery of leukemic stem cells and for developing the first hematopoietic xenograft assay using human hematopoietic cells transplanted into immune-compromised mice, a technique capable of giving rise to distinct blood lineages. Using this assay, Dick has developed xenograft models of human acute lymphoid leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, and chronic myeloid leukemia that have provided crucial insights into the onset and progression of such diseases.
Importantly, his research findings have uncovered a gene signature of leukemia stemness that can be used to predict survival rates and response to treatment. This research has highlighted actionable targets for drug development, while it has provided the foundation for clinical trials that are actively recruiting participants. Additionally, Dick’s research has also led to the identification of genetic mutations that characterize pre-leukemic hematopoietic stem cells capable of contributing to therapeutic resistance and disease relapse.
“The AACR is very proud to honor Dr. Dick as the first recipient of this special award,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His innovative groundbreaking scientific discoveries have contributed greatly to our understanding of leukemia and how we may effectively treat this devastating collection of malignancies. We are thrilled to recognize Dr. Dick’s work that continues to propel the field of blood cancer research forward, leading to more progress for patients.”
Dick has been a member of the AACR since 2006 and was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2016. He is the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology, a senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and an investigator at the McEwen Stem Cell Institute at the University Health Network in Toronto. Additionally, Dick is a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, and co-leader of the Acute Leukemia Translational Research Initiative for the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Dick has also served as a senior scientist in the Department of Genetics at the Research Institute of the Hospital for Sick Children.
In addition to receiving the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research in 2020 and the AACR-G.H.A. Clowes Award for Outstanding Basic Cancer Research in 2008, Dick has been honored with many other awards throughout his career, including the International Society for Stem Cell Research Award for Innovation (2019), American Society of Hematology Mentor Award in Basic Science (2018), Canadian Institutes of Health Research Gold Leaf Prize for Discovery (2017), Keio Medical Science Prize (2017), Elected Fellow of The Royal Society (2014), Canadian Cancer Research Alliance Award for Outstanding Achievements in Cancer Research (2013), American Society of Hematology E. Donnall Thomas Prize (2009), University of Adelaide Clifford Prize for Cancer Research (2009), Israel Cancer Research Fund: Men of Distinction Award (2009), International Society for Experimental Hematology Donald Metcalf Award (2007), National Cancer Institute of Canada Diamond Jubilee Award (2007), American Society of Hematology Dameshek Prize (2005), Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Academy of Sciences (2004), Leiden University Herman Boerhaave Medal (2002), National Cancer Institute of Canada Robert L. Noble Prize for Excellence in Cancer Research (2000), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Michael Smith Prize (1997).
Dick earned his doctoral degree in microbiology and biochemistry at the University of Manitoba.