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China's cancer researcher wins 2018 Sjoberg Prize with French scientists

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-02-14 08:30

China's cancer researcher Chen Zhu won the Sjoberg Prize, along with French researchers Anne Dejean and Hugues de The, for the unique treatment that cures a once fatal cancer, announced the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Feb 5.

According to a statement from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the prize was awarded to them "for the clarification of molecular mechanisms and the development of a revolutionary treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia".

This year's Sjoberg laureates developed a new and targeted treatment for a specific form of blood cancer called acute promyelocytic leukemia.

It was once one of the deadliest forms of cancer, but it is now possible to cure nine out of 10 patients with the new treatment, the statement said.

The treatment is unique because it is the first standard treatment for acute leukemia that does not include chemotherapy. Instead, a combination treatment is used, which consists of a form of vitamin A, "all-trans retinoic acid", also called ATRA, along with arsenic trioxide.

The idea of using arsenic comes from traditional medicine, but this method has been scientifically tested and proven in this form. The laureates have made this revolutionary development possible by methodically mapping the molecular mechanisms responsible for the disease.

Chen was quoted by the statement as saying that he was honored to share the prize, "which recognizes important contributions to cancer research", with De The and Dejean.

"This prize means not only the glory, but even more importantly a responsibility, a responsibility for me, my team and our collaborators to continue efforts in the understanding of disease mechanisms of other types of hematological malignancies and to develop innovative, effective therapeutic strategies against those diseases through collaboration with other partners," says Chen, 65, who is a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and is funded by the Sjoberg Foundation with a donation of 2 billion Swedish krona (about $248 million).

The prize is an annual international prize in cancer research awarded to individual researchers or groups. The prize amounts to $1 million, of which $100,000 is the prize sum and $900,000 is funding for future research. Laureates are expected to conduct the official Sjoberg Prize Lecture at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm on April 12.

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