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UCLA stem cell researcher inducted into cancer research academy

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A major research focus at UCLA involves stem cells. On April 22, the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center announced that one of its members, Dr. Owen Witte, director of UCLA’s Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research was a 2014 inductee into the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Academy. Dr. Witte’s research has laid the foundation for the development of the drug Imatinib (Gleevec®), which is the first targeted therapy for chronic myeloid leukemia.

AACR CEO Dr. Margaret Forti noted, “Our 2014 class of fellows includes a number of the most prestigious laboratory researchers and physician-scientists who have contributed enormously to the cancer field.” The AACR was created to recognize and honor distinguished scientists whose research has significantly advanced the fight against cancer. The fellows of the Academy are selected by a rigorous peer-review process, which evaluates them based on their scientific achievements in cancer research.

“I am honored to be recognized by the AACR with induction into the Academy,” noted Dr. Witte. He added, “The fact that fellows of the AACR Academy are selected by their peers based on their research achievements gives inclusion a much richer meaning than one might feel for an award based on one discovery. This honor acknowledges more than my career, it highlights the achievements of the many people who have worked and trained in my laboratory and all my colleagues over the years as well.”

Dr. Witte’s research also defined Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, which has become a target therapy for several types of leukemia and lymphoma with drugs such as ibrutinib. His research has focused on the interconnected problems of how cell growth is regulated, how cells differentiate, and understanding the function of cancer-causing genes in human leukemia and epithelial cancers (cancers of the lining of glands or organs such as the prostate or ovaries).

Dr. Witte is an active scientist currently working on defining the stem cells for epithelial cancers of the prostate and other organs; his goal is to help define new and more effective treatments, He graduated from Cornell University and earned his medical degree at Stanford. He completed his postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later joined the UCLA faculty where he is a distinguished professor of microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He currently holds the UCLA President’s Chair in Developmental Immunology.