Cory Abate-Shen Wins Charlotte Friend Lectureship Award, Honoring Outstanding Advances in Cancer and Scientific Leadership

April 11, 2023

Cory Abate-Shen, PhD, an internationally-recognized expert in genitourinary (GU) cancer research, has been selected as the 2023 recipient of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Lectureship. Each year, the AACR selects an outstanding scientist for their sustained contributions to the field of cancer research and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered the advancement of women in science. 

Cory Abate-Shen, PhD

“This is an incredible honor,” says Dr. Abate-Shen, professor and chair of molecular pharmacology and therapeutics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “It means so much to me to be recognized for both my scientific accomplishments as well as my leadership and support of fellow female scientists.” 

As this year’s awardee, Dr. Abate-Shen will speak at the 2023 AACR Annual Meeting, held April 14 to 19 in Orlando, FL. One of the largest annual meetings for the cancer research community, the AACR is where scientists, clinicians, survivors, patients and advocates gather to share the latest advances in cancer science and medicine. 

Dr. Abate-Shen’s talk, entitled “Paying it Forward: A Path to a Successful Career in Cancer Research”, will provide an overview of her scientific accomplishments, highlight examples of the synergy between research and mentoring and share pivotal moments from her own career as a woman in science. 

Pioneering GU cancer research and translational science

Dr. Abate-Shen has been a trailblazer in the use of genetically-engineered mouse models to study GU cancers.

Dr. Abate-Shen has built a more than 30-year-career pioneering advances in fundamental cancer research and translational science, beginning with establishing an active lab at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, now the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Her long-standing commitment to elucidating how normal cellular processes are co-opted in cancer has led to seminal discoveries in cancer initiation, progression and treatment response.  

As a post-doctoral trainee, her research shifted the paradigm for understanding how redox regulation contributes to cancer through control of gene transcription. Her current research is devoted to investigating the relationship between prostate development and cancer initiation through study of the NKX3.1 gene as a prostate specific tumor suppressor. Her finding linking NKX3.1 to prostate formation is a rare example in which a single gene is responsible for reprogramming an entire tissue, and provides important information on the relevance of proper tissue specification for suppression of cancer initiation.

A trailblazer in the innovative use of genetically-engineered mouse models of GU cancers for discovery of basic cancer mechanisms and translation to human disease, Dr. Abate-Shen’s research has led to a comprehensive series of mouse models representing the full spectrum of human prostate cancer types. Her analyses of these models has led to discovery of key drivers of lethal prostate cancer as well as mechanisms of drug resistance and metastasis. Dr. Abate-Shen has also led efforts to develop mouse models of bladder cancer, and has performed analyses that have led to successful clinical trials for treatment of high-risk disease. 

Dedicated leader in science and cancer research 

Dr. Abate-Shen has held numerous leadership roles throughout her career. In 1999, she founded the prostate program at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and served as its co-leader until leaving the institution in the fall of 2007 to join Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) as Chernow Professor of Urologic Sciences, professor of pathology and cell biology and professor of systems biology at the HICCC. At Columbia, Dr. Abate-Shen served as interim director of the HICCC in 2012 and from 2017 to 2018, and in 2019, was appointed the Robert Sonneborn Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics.  

In the broader community, Dr. Abate-Shen served as co-chair of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI)  Mouse Models of Human Cancer Consortium, member of the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors, member of the NCI Blue Ribbon Panel Working Group on Tumor Evolution and Progression and member of the Board of Directors of the AACR. 

As part of the prestigious Charlotte Friend Lectureship, Dr. Abate-Shen will be presented with a commemorative physical award, accompanied by an honorarium.