The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will honor Nobel Laureate Carolyn R. Bertozzi, PhD, with the 2023 AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research at the AACR Annual Meeting 2023, on April 16, in Orlando, FL.
The AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research recognizes outstanding, novel, and significant chemistry research that has led to important contributions to basic and translational cancer research, as well as cancer diagnostics, prevention, and treatment.
Bertozzi is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry in the School of Humanities and Sciences and a professor (by courtesy) of chemical and systems biology and of radiology at Stanford University, an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Baker Family Director of Sarafan ChEM-H.
Bertozzi is being recognized for advancing basic and translational cancer research through bioorthogonal chemistry and chemical glycobiology.
Early research, inventions, and contributions
Bertozzi is credited with inventing the field of bioorthogonal chemistry—a class of chemical reactions compatible with living systems that enable molecular imaging and drug targeting. Bertozzi hypothesized that chemical reactions could be specifically designed to occur in living organisms by carefully selecting reaction partners, instead of attempting to manipulate reaction conditions.
Her early research was focused on combining metabolic labeling with bioorthogonal chemistry, demonstrating that this approach allowed for targeted interrogations of biological systems. This fundamental advancement sparked a revolution in the manipulation and understanding of biological systems.
However, since this method often resulted in off-target reactions in cellular environments with ketone and aldehyde groups, Bertozzi went on to develop a modified technique that avoided such issues. Known as copper-free click chemistry, this technology is now used by researchers worldwide for drug discovery and therapeutic development efforts.
Applications of Bertozzi’s inventions
Bertozzi’s bioorthogonal chemistry approaches have enabled large-scale production and clinical testing of highly stable antibody–drug conjugates, a class of therapeutics used to treat various cancers.
Bertozzi also discovered that tumor-associated glycans promote immunosuppression by engaging sialic acid binding immunoglobulin-type lectins, or Siglec, receptors on immune cells. She is heralded for engineering antibody–sialidase conjugates, which represent a new class of therapeutically relevant molecules for the selective cleaving of immunosuppressive glycans from tumor cell surfaces. Underscoring the translational impacts of this work, an antibody-sialidase conjugate is currently being evaluated in Phase 1 clinical trials.
In addition to receiving the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Bertozzi has been honored with numerous awards throughout her career and is an elected member of several advisory committees and organizations.
- This press release was originally published on the American Association for Cancer Research website