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Donald Metcalf Receives American Association for Cancer Research Lifetime Achievement Award


PHILADELPHIA - Donald Metcalf, M.D., the physiologist renowned as “the father of hematopoietic cytokines” for his pioneering work on the control of blood cell formation, will receive the American Association for Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research.

The award will be presented on Monday, April 16, 2007 during ceremonies at the AACR’s Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, Calif.

In early studies, Dr. Metcalf discovered the function of the thymus gland in controlling the formation of lymphocytes, and beginning in 1965, co-developed a series of specialized culture techniques permitting the growth of various types of blood cells. These cultures led him and his team to the discovery of “colony-stimulating factors” (CSFs), hormones that control white blood cell formation and are, therefore, responsible for one’s resistance to infection. His work, with that of others, led to the successful cloning of the genes for all mouse and human CSFs, and the mass production of these hormones by bacterial, yeast, and other cells for therapeutic use.

Dr. Metcalf’s work provided the pivotal demonstration that CSFs, when injected into animals, stimulated the formation and regulated the activity of white blood cells. Exploiting this, his collaborators documented the effectiveness of GM-CSF and G-CSF (two primary white blood cell regulators) when injected into patients. These blood cell regulators have been in extensive clinical use since 1988 in the management of cancer patients following the use of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. CSF treatment accelerates hematopoietic regeneration in these patients, reducing the risk of infections, usefully shortening time of hospitalization, and permitting the delivery of increased doses of chemotherapy.

Furthermore, Dr. Metcalf and his colleagues showed that CSFs could elevate the levels of hematopoietic stem cells in the blood equivalent to levels in bone marrow. Not only was pheresis of peripheral blood a less traumatic and more prolific source of cells for transplantation, but the CSF-elicited stem cells achieved a more rapid recovery of white cell and platelet levels in patients. This dramatic advance has largely replaced bone marrow transplantation in cancer treatment and has had a major impact on the manner in which chemotherapy is used in cancer patients.

“As a world-renowned scientist and leader in the cancer research community, Dr. Metcalf is an outstanding choice for the AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), AACR chief executive officer. "Dr. Metcalf’s contributions to the field of hematology research have not only had a major impact in cancer research, but have also revolutionized our understanding of many other blood diseases.

Dr. Metcalf is the Carden Fellow in Cancer Research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Professor Emeritus, University of Melbourne, Australia. He received his B.Sc. in Virology (1951), his M.B.B.S. (1953), and his M.D. (1961) from the University of Sydney, Australia.

Dr. Metcalf has received numerous awards including the Albert Lasker Award, the Bristol-Myers Award, the Armand Hammer Prize, the Sloan Prize, and many others. In his native country, he has received the Gold Medal from the Australian Cancer Society, the Burnet Medal from the Australian Academy of Science, and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, among others. In addition, he has been named an Officer and a Companion of the Order of Australia.

The AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was established and first presented in 2004 to honor an individual who has made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work. These contributions, whether they have been in research, leadership, or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer.

Editors Note: To download a high-resolution photograph of Dr. Metcalf and for further information on this lectureship, please e-mail


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