The Lasker Awards are widely regarded as America’s most prestigious biomedical research awards and have been honoring key contributions to the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of human disease. A total of $250,000 are given in each of its categories. The awards will be presented on Friday in New York City.
Having been approved in the U.S. in 1998 for patients with an aggressive form of breast cancer (HER2-positive), Herceptin was the first monoclonal antibody therapy binding a protein coded by an oncogene — a gene that, when mutated, can cause cancer — and one of the earliest designed to block cancer growth. More than 2.3 million patients have been treated with Herceptin to date.
Developing treatments to target oncogenes had been proposed as a likely effective cancer treatment strategy in the mid-1970s. Shepard and Ullrich, then working at Genentech, and Slamon, at the University of California, Los Angeles, provided the first evidence that monoclonal antibodies could treat solid tumors successfully.
Ullrich and Shepard had shown in preclinical studies that antibodies could