Penn’s Basser Center for BRCA Chooses Two Cambridge Researchers for 2019 Basser Global Prize

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Douglas Easton, PhD

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Antonis Antoniou, PhD

PHILADELPHIA – The Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the world’s first comprehensive center aimed at advancing research, treatment, and prevention of BRCA-related cancers, is pleased to announce Douglas Easton, PhD, and Antonis Antoniou, PhD, as the recipients of the seventh annual Basser Global Prize. Easton and Antoniou are both professors in the department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, and members of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre.

Each year, the Basser Global Prize recognizes a leading scientist who has conceptually advanced BRCA1/2-related research. Individuals with mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are at an increased risk of breast, ovarian, pancreatic and other cancers.

Easton’s and Antoniou’s research focuses on genetic susceptibility to common cancers with the goal of identifying and characterizing genetic variants associated with cancer risk, with a particular emphasis on hormone-related cancers. Much of their work has focused on characterizing the cancer risks for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, the analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in breast and other cancers, and using this information to personalize cancer risk prediction.

“We are excited to honor Professor Easton and Professor Antoniou for their work in advancing our knowledge of genetics and cancer risk prediction, including their ongoing development of models that help us better understand who may be at greatest risk,” said Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Center for BRCA.

Easton is currently the director of the Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology at the University of Cambridge. He studied Mathematics at the University of Cambridge before gaining a PhD in Genetic Epidemiology at the University of London in 1992. In 1995 he set up the Cancer Research UK Genetic Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge, where he was a CR-UK Principal Research Fellow from 2001-2011. He was awarded a Professorship of Genetic Epidemiology in 2003.

“We are deeply honored to be selected for this award by the Basser Center, which is known around the world for its efforts to make a difference for patients with inherited BRCA1/2 mutations,” Easton said.

Antoniou currently leads a research group within the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge and he is the Academic Course Director for the MPhil in Epidemiology. He studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Cambridge before gaining his PhD in Genetic Epidemiology at Cambridge in 2001. He was a CR-UK Senior Research Fellow between 2009-2015. In 2013 he was appointed a Reader in Cancer Risk Prediction and was promoted to Professor of Cancer Risk Prediction in 2017.

“The Basser Global Prize will be critical in supporting our research on the prevention and early detection of cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. We aim to achieve this through the integration of epidemiological studies with novel molecular and functional analyses.” Antoniou said.

Easton and Antoniou will receive the award and give the keynote address at the eighth annual Basser Center for BRCA Scientific Symposium on May 12, 2020. The Basser Global Prize provides $100,000 in unrestricted support of the winner’s BRCA1/2-related research efforts, a Basser sculpture, and a $10,000 personal prize, which will be awarded at the symposium.

“I am delighted that Professors Easton and Antoniou are receiving this prestigious award for their world-leading research in identifying the inherited genetic faults that increase cancer risk and the effect of environmental factors. Their work is having real impact in helping patients reduce their risk of this terrible disease,” said Professor Richard Gilbertson, Li Ka Shing Chair of Oncology, Head of the Department of Oncology, and Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre at the University of Cambridge.

The Basser Center was established in 2012 with a $25 million gift from University of Pennsylvania alumni Mindy and Jon Gray in memory of Mindy Gray’s sister Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44. To date, Mindy and Jon have donated more than $55 million to the Basser Center in support of research and education to improve treatment and prevention strategies for hereditary cancers. The Basser Global Prize was established and subsequently endowed by Shari Basser Potter and Leonard Potter.

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