Michelle Le Beau receives American Cancer Society's top national honor for research achievements

November 25, 2008

Michelle Le Beau and Otis Webb Brawley Le Beau with Otis Webb Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society and alumnus of the Pritzker School of Medicine

The American Cancer Society honored Michelle Le Beau, PhD, director of the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center, with its prestigious Distinguished Service Award this month for her extraordinary work to control cancer. Le Beau, a professor of medicine and human genetics, was recognized for her major contributions and commitment to cancer research.

Le Beau was the only researcher recognized by the American Cancer Society at its 2008 national awards. She received the award in New York City at the American Cancer Society's annual meeting.

"I am incredibly humbled by this award," Le Beau said. "My life's work and motivation has been pursuing cancer research and building academic programs that find ways to improve the quality of life for cancer patients. My colleagues and I work toward the dream that one day we will bring cancer under control, and we are making slow but steady progress toward that goal."

Le Beau, 54, has been a leader in working with therapy-related cancers. Among her extraordinary accomplishments named by the American Cancer Society are identifying recurring genetic abnormalities in blood cancers, and her groundbreaking research that led to the discovery that there are several distinct genetic subtypes of therapy-related myelodysplastic syndrome, a precursor to leukemia, and acute myeloid leukemia.

Le Beau has published more than 410 papers on genetic abnormalities in human leukemia, and she is board-certified in clinical cytogenetics by the American Board of Medical Genetics.

Much of her work has focused on therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia. She is the principal investigator of a Program Project Grant sponsored by the National Cancer Institute examining the causes of acute myeloid leukemia that resulted from prior cancer treatments.

Le Beau also has extensive experience building interdisciplinary research programs, and has fostered the careers and training of young scientists. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Chicago, she has administered large peer-reviewed grants, and successfully overseen large academic research programs aimed at discovering mechanisms that trigger cancer, as well as prevention and treatment strategies.

Since 1984, she has directed the Cancer Cytogenetics Laboratory at the University of Chicago. The diagnostic laboratory analyzes leukemias, lymphomas, and solid tumors to better understand how they evolve and act in the body, so targeted therapies can be developed.

Aside from her administrative roles, Le Beau also is devoted to hands-on research, teaching and fundraising. Since she became director of the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center in 2004, she has overseen reorganization of research programs and shared resources. She also developed a strategic plan for the center for optimal use of its talent and resources.

Le Beau, who lives in Lemont, was appointed assistant professor at the University of Chicago in 1986, and became a full professor in 1997. She completed fellowship training at the University of Chicago. She holds a PhD and master's degree, both in pathology, from the University of Illinois, and a bachelor's degree in genetics from Purdue University.

She has served on numerous editorial boards, including Blood, British Journal of Haematology, Leukemia, Leukemia Research, and Genes, Chromosomes and Cancer.

About the University of Chicago Medical Center
The University of Chicago Medical Center, established in 1927, is one of the nation's leading academic medical institutions. It consists of the renowned Pritzker School of Medicine; Bernard Mitchell Hospital, the primary adult patient care facility; Comer Children's Hospital, devoted to the medical needs of children; Chicago Lying-in Hospital, a maternity and women's hospital; and the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, a state-of-the-art ambulatory-care facility with the full spectrum of preventive, diagnostic, and treatment functions. Care is provided by more than 700 attending physicians--most of whom are full-time University faculty members--620 residents and fellows, more than 1,000 nurses and 9,500 employees.

The Medical Center is consistently recognized as a leading provider of complex medical care. It is the only Illinois hospital ever to make the U.S.News & World Report Honor Roll, with eight clinical specialties--digestive disorders; cancer; endocrinology; neurology and neurosurgery; heart and heart surgery; kidney disease; geriatrics; and ear, nose and throat--ranked among the top 30 programs nationwide. The cancer program is the top-rated oncology program in Illinois. The Medical Center was awarded Magnet status in 2007, the highest level of recognition for nursing care.

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