2009 - Napoleone Ferrara

Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, CA

Dr. Napoleone Ferrara is honored in recognition of his groundbreaking research in the mechanisms of tumor angiogenesis, which ranges from pioneering basic science to creating novel therapies.
In 1989, Dr. Ferrara and his colleagues reported the isolation and cloning of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and then characterized this molecule as a major regulator of angiogenesis involved in a variety of physiological processes, including embryonic development, reproductive functions and skeletal growth. Dr. Ferrara also demonstrated that VEGF is an important mediator of tumor angiogenesis. The development of a humanized anti-VEGF antibody (bevacizumab) stems from his exemplary scientific work and is the first molecule proven clinically effective in targeting angiogenesis. Since 2004, bevacizumab has attained FDA approval for the treatment of metastatic colon, lung and breast cancer, the three leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States. Dr. Ferrara’s studies on the role of VEGF in intraocular neovascularization also led to the clinical development and FDA approval of an anti-VEGF antibody fragment - ranibizumab - as a novel and effective therapy to prevent blindness in patients with wet age-related macular degeneration.
Today, Dr. Ferrara continues his innovative research. He is pursuing the investigation of VEGF and its receptors as well as studying novel mechanisms of regulation of angiogenesis. As part of this line of research, he identified endocrine gland vascular endothelial growth factor (EG-VEGF), a molecule that forms new blood vessels selectively in endocrine-system tissues. Most recently, his laboratory has been investigating the mechanism of tumor escape to anti-VEGF therapy and identified factors produced by tumor-infiltrating myeloid cells and fibroblasts as novel mediators of VEGF-independent angiogenesis and, potentially, as therapeutic targets.
Dr. Ferrara received his M.D. cum laude from the University of Catania Medical School in Italy in 1981. He continued his fellowship training at the University of California, San Francisco until joining Genentech in 1988 as a Scientist. He rose through the ranks and he currently serves as the Genentech Fellow.
Throughout his career, Dr. Ferrara has received numerous awards in recognition of his scientific achievements. Among them are the Macula Society Arnall Patz Award; the ASCO Science of Oncology Award; the General Motors Cancer Research Award; the Passano Award; the Lefoulon-Delalande-Institut-de-France Prize; the AACR Bruce F. Cain Memorial Award; and the American-Italian Cancer Foundation Prize. In 2006, Dr. Ferrara was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.
Dr. Ferrara has been a member of the American Association for Cancer Research since 2000 and has provided great service to the AACR by serving in various capacities on several key committees, including the AACR Council of Scientific Advisers (2007) and as Co-Chairperson, Program Committee AACR Annual Meeting (2008).
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