Trio shares Albany Medical Center prize

Posted at: 05/17/2013 3:42 PM
Updated at: 05/17/2013 5:44 PM
By: Benita Zahn

April Seely took off from teaching her English class at Union College today to meet the doctors whose research saved her life and the lives of countless others.

“I mean what an opportunity to meet the people who saved your life, “she said.

   April, like Aysia Santo and Lynne Dagata are survivors of Chronic Myloid Leukemia. And they owe their lives to the work of Dr. Janet Rowley, Dr. Brian Druker and  Dr. Peter Nowell, who was unable to attend this award ceremony. The trio is sharing the $500,000 Albany Medical Center prize in medicine and biomedical research. One of the biggest such prizes in the world.

”Our honorees have literally transformed the treatment of cancer with their landmark research into its genetic behavior “

    40 years ago Dr. Newell discovered a strange chromosome in the blood of patients suffering a form of leukemia - chronic myeloid leukemia. His work was furthered by Dr. Rowley and then Dr. Drucker developed Gleevec - a new type of cancer drug that targets the genetic problem leaving the rest of the body untouched. It personalized and revolutionized cancer treatment.

”When I started ... To lead a normal life,“ he said.

  He battled to get a drug company to sign on and develop the drug.. A battle that would take 5 years. But it was a home run -saving the lives of CML patients like these and paved the way for new treatments for other cancers.

“When patients are diagnosed with cancer, instead of spending years of trying to find the right treatment we have tests that can match the right treatment with exactly the right diagnosis.”

   Now, says Drucker, work is underway to create better screening tests to find cancers at their earliest and most treatable stage.

“It's pretty emotional, um, I just have nothing to say to them but thank you, you know.”