COLUMBUS, Ga., April 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Aflac, the company that helps employers enhance benefits offerings to employees, today announced it will donate a total of $1,060,000 to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) to help defray the costs facing cancer researchers. The three-year scholarship awards focus on career development, scholar-in-training; a special program for high school students, and a task force on pediatric oncology. The company is announcing the scholarships this evening at the AACR-Aflac Incorporated Scholar Awards Reception in Orlando, Florida. A total of 43 researchers will receive scholarship funds from an initial installment of $265,000.
"Finding a cure for cancer has been our primary philanthropic cause for more than 15 years," Aflac Foundation President Kathelen Amos said. "Finding a cure begins with making sure our up-and-coming researchers have the tools they need to make a difference. We are honored to support the AACR any way we can."
Since 1997, Aflac and the American Association for Cancer Research have been partners in the fight against cancer. The collaborative efforts focus primarily on better understanding of cancer science, especially as it relates to childhood cancers. Aflac has provided scholarships for more than 600 young researchers since the inception of its partnership with AACR, including Dr. Charles Mullighan from St. Jude's Children's Hospital (see bio below).
"The Aflac award has provided crucial support in the initial stages of my career as an independent investigator," Dr. Mullighan said. "The award allowed me to pursue high risk studies examining the genetics of Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and the development of novel mouse models of ALL. These are clinically relevant studies as they have defined new genetic changes in this disease and helped elucidate their contribution to leukemogenesis."
In addition to the AACR Scholarships, since 1995, Aflac has raised and donated more than $62 million for the treatment and research of childhood cancer.
Facts about pediatric cancers
Cancer is the leading cause of death in children under age 15. American Cancer Society (ACS 2010)
Leukemia causes one-third of childhood cancer deaths. (ACS 2010)
Mortality rates for childhood cancer have declined by 55 percent since 1975. (ACS 2008)
There are estimated to be at least 270,000 survivors of childhood cancer in the United States.
2011 Scholarship Recipients
Antonio L. Amelio, PhD - Scripps Institute, Florida
Guillermo Armaiz Pena, PhD – University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Kofi Asomaning, MD – Harvard School of Public Health
Gregor M. Balaburski, PhD – Fox Chase Cancer Center
Daniel W. Bowles, MD - University of Colorado School of Medicine
J. Chad Brenner, Graduate – University of Michigan
Sara A. Byron, PhD - Translational Genomics Research Institute
Qi Cao, PHD – University of Michigan
Tooba A. Cheema, PhD – Massachusetts General Hospital
Ru Chen, PHD - UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School
Brooke C. Christensen, PhD – Brown University
Leonie H.A.M de Wilt, MSc – Virginia University Medical Center
Jan B. Egan, PhD – Mayo Clinic, Arizona
Inna V. Fedorenko, Graduate - H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Ctr. & Res. Inst.
Dinorah Friedmann-Morvinski, PhD - Salk Inst. Cancer Ctr.
Nicolas N. Garnier, MSc - Lady Davis Institute, JGH
Hossien A. Hamed, BS - Virginia Commonwealth University
Linda Holmfeldt, PhD - St Jude Children's Research Hospital
Shu-hao Hsu, Graduate – Ohio State University
Jae Hong Im, PhD – University of Oxford
Yuqi Jing, PhD - University Of Miami, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Neil Johnson, PhD – Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Amjad P. Khan, PhD - University of Michigan Medical School
Hyung-Gu Kim, PhD - Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School
James L. LaBelle, MD, PhD – Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Andrea Lai, Graduate – McGill University
Jill E. Larsen, PhD - UT Southwestern Medical Center
Melissa K. McConechy. BS - BC Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia
Andrew S. Moore, MBBS – The Institute of Cancer Research
Britney L. Moss, Graduate – Washington University School of Medicine
Min Ni, PhD – Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Wen-Bin Ou, PhD – Brigham and Women's Hospital
John R. Prensner, Graduate – University of Michigan
Jeanine M.L. Roodhart, MD – University Medical Center Utrecht
Mike R. Russell, PhD – Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Takaomi Sanda, MD, PhD – Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Prasanna K. Santhekadur, PhD – Virginia Commonwealth University
Punit Saraon, PhD – University of Toronto/Mount Sinai Hospital
Timothy K. Starr, PhD - Univ. of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Ctr.
Li Tao, MD - Univ. of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Ctr.
Jose T. Thaiparambil, PhD - Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Chery Whipple, PhD - Dartmouth Norris Cotton Cancer Ctr.
Kenichi Yoshida, MD - Cancer Genomics Project, The University of Tokyo
ABOUT DR. CHARLES MULLIGHAN
Dr. Charles Mullighan, a physician scientist fellow in Dr. James R. Downing's laboratory at St. Jude Children's Hospital, began his work on a number of important studies that have used genome wide profiling approaches to identify genetic alterations contributing to the pathogenesis and treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Over the years, he has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles, many in prestigious journals like Nature, Genes & Development, Science, Cancer Cell andNature Genetics.
An important finding was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 where Dr. Mullighan and his colleagues identified genetic mutations that predict a high likelihood of relapse in children with ALL. In this study, he used microarrays and DNA sequencing to analyze genetic information on leukemia cells obtained at diagnosis from 221 children with high-risk leukemia. He used an unbiased method to determine a group of genetic abnormalities that are significantly associated with poor outcome. The most significant associations they found were with the IKAROS gene and may mean that a clinical test for alterations of IKAROS could prove valuable for predicting poor outcomes in children with ALL.
Although Dr. Mullighan is at an early phase in his career, he has had an impressive track record in obtaining extramural funding. Aside from receiving the AACR-Aflac, Incorporated Career Development Award for Pediatric Cancer Research in 2008, Dr. Mullighan was awarded a Pew Scholars Program grant in the Biomedical Sciences in 2009. This success has continued as his career has progressed, and he recently received the 2011 AACR Gertrude B. Elion Award for his research on exome sequencing of hypodiploid acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Dr. Mullighan serves as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous journals including Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research and New England Journal of Medicine and is currently an editor of the journal Blood. He has also been recruited to serve as a reviewer for National Health and Medical Research Council project grant applications.
When a policyholder gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fast. For 55 years, Aflac insurance policies have helped provide a safety net and given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the United States, Aflac is the number one provider of guaranteed-renewable insurance. In Japan, Aflac is the number one insurance company in terms of individual insurance policies in force. Aflac insurance products provide protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. For five consecutive years, Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere magazine as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies and by Forbes magazine as one of America's Best-Managed Companies in the Insurance category. In 2011, Fortune magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for the thirteenth consecutive year. Also, Fortune magazine included Aflac on its list of Most Admired Companies for the 10th time in 2011. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac, visit aflac.com or aflacenespanol.com.
ABOUT THE AACR:
The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 18,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. Including Cancer Discovery, the AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. AACR journals represented 20 percent of the market share of total citations in 2009. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists.