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DMS researcher is honored with inaugural award

If there's anything more gratifying than receiving a major professional award, perhaps it is being the inaugural recipient of a brand new award—being recognized, in other words, as the archetype of that particular accomplishment.

If so, that makes Dartmouth's Michael Sporn, M.D., the archetypal cancer-prevention researcher. Sporn—who coined the term "chemoprevention," the idea of using vitamins, drugs, or other agents to stop cancer before it starts—was recently named the first recipient of the Excellence in Cancer Prevention Research Award.

Michael Sporn, right—pictured here with graduate student Andrew Place— was the inaugural recipient of an award in the field of cancer prevention.
Photo: Mark Austin-Washburn

Major impact: The international award recognizes an individual whose contributions have had a major impact on, and stimulated new directions in, the field of cancer prevention. Nominations were solicited from around the world by the two organizations— the American Association for Cancer Research and the Cancer Research Foundation of America—that joined forces to establish this new honor.

Sporn's innovative work dates back to the 1970s, when he suggested that there might be ways of combating cancer other than using cytotoxic drugs once the disease had been diagnosed. He continues to advocate the importance of preventing cancer. "The emphasis should be on suppressing carcinogenesis—the development of cancer—before it becomes evident as invasive or metastatic cancer," he explains. Sporn was one of the first researchers, for example, to show the chemopreventive potential of Vitamin A and its analogs, retinoids—another term that he coined.

His current work involves substances called triterpenoids— structures occurring in plants that have been found to have interesting biological, pharmacological, and medicinal effects.

The award "not only recognizes Dr. Sporn's accomplishments," according to Mark Israel, the director of Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center, but "it brings greater public attention to the extraordinary efforts and progress being made through laboratory-based cancer prevention efforts."

Alan Smithee

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