UBC Faculty of Medicine professor and Academy of Translational Medicine chair Dr. Poul Sorensen has received the 2022 Herman Suit Award for his lifesaving work on human sarcomas.
The award, given every year by the Connective Tissue Oncology Society, recognizes outstanding contributions to the basic science of sarcomas, especially research that translates into clinical benefits for patients. Sarcomas are malignant tumours of the connective tissues.
“The study of sarcomas has brought an enormous number of key discoveries in the areas of cancer biology, genetics, and treatment. I am very honoured to be part of this exciting field, and it’s a real bonus to be recognized with this international award for doing something I love to do,” Dr. Sorensen says.
Since the late 1990s Dr. Sorensen has made many important breakthroughs. His group was the first to describe NTRK gene fusion, an unusual genetic mutation that causes tumour cells to produce a cancer-causing enzyme. They demonstrated that, by manipulating certain biochemical pathways, the enzyme could be switched off. This discovery led to the development of Vitrakvi (larotrectinib), an anti-tumour drug that has saved countless lives.
His more recent research focuses on the use of biochemical methods to identify surface proteins overexpressed in human sarcomas that could be exploited as targets for immunotherapy. In 2021, Dr. Sorensen and his team discovered a potential new treatment pathway for Ewing sarcoma, an aggressive and often fatal childhood cancer.
“Dr. Sorensen is a brilliant scientist and a leader in his field. His work is truly life-changing for cancer patients and their families, opening up new frontiers for treatment and care,” says Dr. Dermot Kelleher, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Vice-President of Health, UBC.
Dr. Sorensen will give the 2022 Herman Suit Award Lecture at the annual meeting of the Connective Tissue Oncology Society in Vancouver this November.