National Cancer Institute Honors Leonard I. Zon, MD, with Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics

January 11, 2016 — Leonard I. Zon, MD, Director of the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Grousbeck Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, is the recipient of the 20th annual Alfred G. Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics from the National Cancer Institute.

The prestigious award — named for Dr. Knudson, a physician and geneticist who revolutionized the understanding of the genetic basis of cancer — is presented annually to a scientist who has made outstanding research contributions to the field of cancer genetics. On January 12, Dr. Zon will deliver the award lecture, “Modulating Cell Fate for Cancer Therapeutics: Insights from Embryonic Development,” at the annual NCI Intramural Scientific Investigators Retreat in Maryland.

In addition to his positions at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Zon is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (HHMI), Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University, and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Zon founded and is past president of the International Society of Stem Cell Research and former chairman and a member of the Executive Committee of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and former president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation. Among Dr. Zon’s numerous honors and awards are the E. Donnall Thomas Prize from the American Society of Hematology (2010) and the International Society for Experimental Hematology Donald Metcalf Lecture Award (2013).

A hematologist/oncologist, Dr. Zon is recognized internationally for his groundbreaking work in stem cell biology and cancer genetics. He pioneered the use of the zebrafish for the study of human blood formation (hematopoiesis) and disease, including many types of cancer. Dr. Zon’s translational zebrafish research led to the discovery and development of two novel therapeutics that are now being evaluated in clinical trials of patients with leukemia and melanoma. His research, which receives funding from the National Institutes of Health as well as HHMI and other sources, is largely focused on better understanding the genetics of blood diseases, melanoma, and other cancers and bringing that knowledge into the clinical setting for the benefit of patients suffering from these disorders.

Dr. Zon joins an illustrious group of previous recipients of the Knudson Award, including Drs. Robert Weinberg, Bert Vogelstein, J. Michael Bishop, Arnold Levine, Harold Varmus, Leland Hartwell, H. Robert Horvitz, Frederick Alt, Brian Drucker, Timothy Ley, and Elizabeth H. Blackburn.