Professor Emeritus of Medicine, UC San Diego
Dennis Carson, MD, the 2021 Recipient, has spent his career discovering new targets, and developing therapeutics, in the fields of oncology, autoimmune and infectious diseases. He developed from bench to bedside the drug cladribine (Leustatin®) for hairy cell leukemia (HCL). Developed in 1993, the breakthrough therapy for the then-fatal blood cancer, put more than 90 percent of HCL patients into long-lasting remissions. It acts like a purine nucleoside agent, which prevents cells from making DNA and RNA, and can selectively kill hairy cell leukemia cells. Heralded as a breakthrough cure, cladribine remains the first-line treatment for HCL and is also tapped as a treatment for B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia and multiple sclerosis. Now researchers have expanded its use to another deadly form of leukemia, drug-resistant T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia. Cladribine was a trailblazer at the time of its introduction over 20 years ago.
Dr. Carson developed cladribine, the breakthrough therapy for the then-fatal blood cancer, hairy cell leukemia.
Dr. Carson has held leadership roles at the UCSD Stein Institute and served as Director for the UCSD Moores Cancer Center. He has founded multiple biotechnology companies in the vaccine and oncology areas. Currently, he is involved in multiple translational oncology programs that have led to new clinical trials. His recent work leading a large development project funded by California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has brought from bench to bedside, a monoclonal antibody against cancer stem cells. At this stage in his career, he has focused his expertise and experience to help younger basic and clinical scientists in the difficult process of drug discovery and development.
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