Charles SawyersNobel Conference 56

Charles Sawyers

Charles Sawyers is the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Chair in Human Oncology and Pathogenesis, and Chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, as well as an Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

In chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), cells have an abnormal protein (called the BCR-ABL fusion protein), which results when two chromosomes that are usually separate are fused together. Gleevec (imatinib) is a “targeted therapeutic” that was designed to target the abnormal protein and block its signal for the cell to divide. The therapy kills only cancer cells, leaving normal cells untouched. Gleevec, the first member of this class of therapies, vastly improved the outcomes of patients with CML; its success might be said to usher in the era of precision medicine.

Charles Sawyers conducted the research that led to the development of Gleevec, in collaboration with colleagues at Oregon Health and Science University and Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals. His work to develop new treatment options for cancer patients also led to the development of Xtandi (Enzalutamide), a drug that works on castration-resistant prostate cancers. 

As a member of the American Association of Cancer Researchers (AACR), Dr. Sawyers recently helped launch Project Genomics Evidence Neoplasia Information Exchange (GENIE), one of the largest databases of genomic information that includes over 19,000 records covering 59 types of cancer. This vast pool of data aids research in multiple ways, including enabling researchers more quickly to recognize important patterns in the data, thereby accelerating research. 

Sawyers is currently chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which brings together researchers from many disciplines totranslate laboratory results into clinical success for patients. He has served as President of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and of the American Association for Cancer Research. In 2012, he was appointed to the National Cancer Advisory Board.