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Recently, the National Foundation of American Cancer Research announced the winning by Professor Wang Zhen-yi and Dr. Chen Zhu of the grand prize of the Seventh St. George Cancer Research Progress Award, a praise and recognition for their remarkable success in the original research work for the effective treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). The two professors combined the traditional Chinese therapeutic arsenic agent with medications of the western medicine in the treatment of APL, greatly prolonging the survival of APL patients. The combined therapy has increased five-year survival rate without relapse from 25% to 95%, and has become the standardized treatment for APL internationally, turning a virtually fatal disease into an almost curable disease.
Early in 1980, Professor Wang Zhen-yi, then in the medical staff of Ruijin Hospital, took the lead in successfully using all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) for the inductive remission of APL, markedly prolonging the survival rate of the patients. Following this line, Dr. Chen Zhu, once a student of Professor Wang, made important contribution to the identification of the molecular mechanism of ATRA and arsenic trioxide in the treatment of APL. In the clinical experiments he conducted, Dr. Chen Zhu proved that arsenic trioxide, which has been used as a therapeutic agent in Chinese medicine for about 2400 years, was effective in treating patients with APL. Since 1990s, Professors Wang and Chen have used the combined therapy of ATRA and arsenic oxide clinically with remarkable success.
Dr. Peterios of the Fox-Chios Cancer Research Center, the chairman of the Appraising Committee of the Seventh St. George Cancer Research Progress Award and winner of the last St. George Cancer Research Progress Award, said: “The two professors have entirely delivered the APL patients from the ordeal they had to suffer; I can hardly imagine anything more excellent than the accomplishment the two outstanding scientists have achieved.”
Reflecting the spirit of searching for new ways in scientific exploration advocated by Albert st. George, founder of the National Foundation of American Cancer Research, Professors Wang and Chen have done something that inspires their colleagues who have been fighting in the frontline of cancer research. Dr. Bastran, co-chair of the Appraising Committee of the Seventh St. George Cancer Research Progress Award and chief executive of the National Foundation of American Cancer Research, said: “True scientific discoveries come from conscientious thinking and basic research. By dedicating all their lives to the research work, the two scientists have set a brilliant example for the younger generation, having great impact and offering considerable encouragement.”
Professor Wang once said with deep feeling: “I feel so glad and honored that our work on leukemia in the past several decades has finally brought blessing to the APL patients worldwide. We will continue our effort to find new and more effective ways for the treatment of cancer.”
“I felt greatly surprised when I learned that our colleagues working in different fields decided to give the grand award to Professor Wang and me. So many scientists are working everyday for the conquest of cancer. I hope that our success may in some way encourage our colleagues in their arduous work,” Dr. Chen Zhu, the current Chinese minister of health said, “It is indeed a great honor to my teacher Wang Zhen-yi and me.”