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Dr. Martine Piccart, International Leader in Breast Cancer Clinical Research, Receives David A. Karnofsky Award

Dr. Martine Piccart, International Leader in Breast Cancer Clinical Research, Receives David A. Karnofsky Award

Dr. Martine J. Piccart

Martine J. Piccart, MD, PhD, FASCO, a leader in international breast cancer research collaboration and drug development, is the 2013 recipient of the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture, ASCO’s highest scientific honor. She will accept the award and deliver her lecture at today’s Opening Session,  9:30 AM-12:00 PM, North Building Hall B1.

Dr. Piccart is a professor of oncology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and director of medicine at the Jules Bordet Institute, Brussels, Belgium. She is co-founder and chair of the Breast International Group (BIG), uniting 49 academic research groups from around the world and running more than 30 trials under its umbrella. She is internationally recognized for her work as the principal or co-principal investigator on numerous clinical trials, including HERA, MINDACT, and ALTTO. ASCO is pleased to honor Dr. Piccart’s significant contributions to the field of breast cancer and her global leadership in clinical research.

Upon learning she had received the Karnofsky Award, Dr. Piccart told ASCO Daily News that her, “immediate thoughts were for my colleagues from BIG. Without their support, their trust in my vision for a strong international network of academic groups, and their centers committed to driving the breast cancer clinical and translational research agenda, I would never have been selected for this prestigious honor.”

Dr. Piccart has dedicated her professional efforts to fighting breast cancer for a very personal reason: during her medical oncology training, her mother was diagnosed with the disease. “I still remember the terrible pain and anxiety I felt while reading the pathology report. This disease became my number one enemy,” she said.

The 2013 Annual Meeting theme, “Building Bridges to Conquer Cancer,” resonated with Dr. Piccart given the intensely collaborative nature of her work. “I come from a small country of only about 11 million people, so I quickly understood that with national initiatives I would not be able to perform research that really impacts people’s lives. It is my passion for accelerating tailored therapies for women with breast cancer that motivated me to set up a large academic network entirely devoted to this disease: BIG can potentially rely on several hundred hospitals in many parts of the globe for its clinical trials,” she said.

An ASCO member since 1985, Dr. Piccart has served on the Board of Directors and numerous committees, including the Cancer Education Committee and International Affairs Committee, as well as the Journal of Clinical Oncology Editorial Board. In 2011, she was honored as a Fellow of ASCO (FASCO; formerly known as the ASCO Statesman Award) for her extraordinary volunteer service to the Society.

In addition to her ASCO involvement, Dr. Piccart is the current president of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), president-elect of the European CanCer Organization, and a member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine. She served as 2006-2009 president of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer.

She has received numerous prestigious awards for her research contributions, including the McGuire Award for Excellence in Breast Cancer Research and the Umberto Veronesi Award for the Future Fight against Cancer.

Her award lecture, “Academic Research Worldwide: Quo Vadis?”, will focus on clinical trials and elucidate “the wonderful opportunities, but also the challenges and threats, that academic networks face today in a rapidly changing environment. The latter is characterized by the multiplication of ingredients needed for truly ‘personalized oncology’ on one hand, but also by increasingly heavy bureaucratic and legal constraints that dramatically slow down the progress our patients are anxiously waiting for,” Dr. Piccart explained.

In her current work, “I wear three hats with great enthusiasm,” she said: training young oncologists and research fellows from around the world at Jules Bordet Institute; working with “a great team” to address the needs of medical oncologists in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, as ESMO president; and, with her dedicated colleagues, preserving academic freedom, accelerating approval of effective targeted breast cancer therapies, and building a comprehensive molecular screening program for metastatic breast cancer as chair of BIG.

Of the future of clinical research, Dr. Piccart believes, “Building a large number of solid bridges is the only way we are going to accelerate progress against cancer. The time is now — we have never had so many solid marble ‘blocks’ that can be put seamlessly together.”