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Debrecen Award given to American Cancer Researcher

Professor Carl H. June received this year the “Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine.”
“The University of Debrecen, Faculty of General Medicine, has been committed for decades to research in the field of molecular medicine, and to preparing physicians working here for the practical application of the research results. We are proud of the European Centre of Excellence title received by the Research Centre for Molecular Medicine, and therefore, it is our duty to disseminate information on the research conducted here in the widest possible circle. It gives us great pleasure that we have international contacts, and therefore, our colleagues have an opportunity to bring home experiences from abroad”, said László Mátyus, dean of the Faculty of General Medicine, at the press conference preceding the award ceremony.

The “Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine,” founded in 2003, is given in recognition of the work of internationally outstanding scientists in the field of molecular medicine, whose research results can also be utilised in patient care.
Professor László Fésüs, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the president of the award committee, underlined that there are several major results published each year in the field of molecular medicine. The cancer immunotherapy developed by this year’s winner of the award, Carl H. June, was called “The Breakthrough of the Year” by the renowned Science magazine in 2013.
Carl H. June is a medical researcher and director or translational research at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In the focus of his research is immunotherapy performed with the patient’s own T-cells genetically modified specifically according to the patient’s cancer (adoptive T-cell therapy). The essence of the method is that chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are added to the T-cells obtained from the patient’s blood, which are then infused back into the patient. With the help of the CAR receptors, the T-cells, whose original purpose is to kill virus-infected cells, recognize cancer cells and destroy them.

Under the direction of Carl H. June, the clinical trials of CAR T-cells were very successful; in the course of the therapy, the cancer disappeared and full recovery was observed in the case of several terminal cancer patients, both children and adults, suffering from leukaemia. In the course of his research, also with the use of genetic modification, Professor June also able to create T-cells resistant to HIV infection as well, which gives hope for a future cure for HIV/AIDS.
Debrecen Award given to American Cancer Researcher   
The recipient said he valued the Debrecen Award very highly, but also added that in the past several years he worked on cancer research with approximately two hundred colleagues. The project started in 2010, and by 2017 it is expected that the final approval for the use of the method in the United States will also be available. Professor June also mentioned that his first patient treated with leukemia is still in good health today, and his illness did not come back.
From the University of Debrecen it is the Institute of Biophysics and Cellular Biology, led by Professor János Szöllősi that has been in contact with the awardee for a number of years. His technique is used in the course of the cancer research conducted at the Institute on mice with breast cancer. According to Professor Szöllősi, the method developed by Carl H. June has great promise in cancer research for the future, and he can see further opportunities for cooperation between the two research groups.
Professor June had received several prestigious awards in recognition of his research, and was also elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, added László Virág vice rector for science and innovation.
More pictures of the event can be found in the Photoalbum
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