UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center director Michelle Le Beau to receive top honor in leukemia research

Michelle M. Le Beau, PhD

Michelle M. Le Beau, PhD, director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center will receive the 2020 Henry M. Stratton Medal from the American Society of Hematology (ASH) for her contributions to basic research.

The medal, one of the cancer field’s top honors, recognizes investigators who have made well-recognized contributions to hematology research.

“I am truly honored to receive this prestigious award from the world’s largest professional society of hematologists,” said Le Beau, the Arthur and Marian Edelstein Professor of Medicine and director of the Cancer Center. “Being part of such a supportive organization of scientists has been rewarding for me throughout my profession.”

Le Beau has dedicated her research career to cytogenetic and molecular analysis of hematologic malignancies for the purpose of risk stratification and treatment selection. Focusing on cytogenetic aspects of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), she was key to the development of the first International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS) classification for MDS.

Le Beau is also recognized for her work in defining the genetic basis of therapy-related myeloid neoplasms, and in identifying tumor suppressor genes involved in the deletions of chromosome 5. Her research accomplishments contributed to the understanding that the loss of a single allele (haploinsufficiency) of multiple critical genes on chromosome 5 cooperate to mediate the adverse phenotype, and that alterations in the bone marrow environment synergize with altered hematopoietic cells to give rise to these myeloid neoplasms.

The Henry M. Stratton Medal is named after the late Henry Maurice Stratton, co-founder of Grune & Stratton, the medical publishing house that first published ASH’s flagship journal Blood. With more than 17,000 members from nearly 100 countries, ASH is the world's largest professional society serving both clinicians and scientists around the world working to conquer blood diseases.

In 2019, Le Beau’s colleague, UChicago Medicine hematologist Richard A. Larson, MD, won the Stratton Medal for Translational/Clinical Research.

The two have collaborated closely over the past four decades, with Larson providing seminal insights into the clinical aspects of leukemia and lymphoma.

“Dr. Le Beau is a leading investigator in cancer cytogenetics and a vital member of our leukemia research program,” Larson said. “She has devoted her career to unraveling the complex pattern of chromosomal changes in leukemia cells, leading to important discoveries that have had a real impact in the clinical setting.”

He added, “Her work spans a spectrum from basic research on the genetic basis of leukemia and critical mutational events to personalized risk assessment to select the most effective therapies for individual patients.”

Over the course of her career, Le Beau has published more than 500 peer-reviewed publications, reviews and chapters to date on cytogenetic and molecular genetic abnormalities in human leukemias and on the application of FISH technology for clinical diagnostics and gene mapping. She has published numerous papers in high-impact journals, has served on numerous editorial boards, including Blood, British Journal of Haematology, Leukemia, and Blood Cancer Discovery, and was a founding Associate Editor of Genes, Chromosomes and Cancer.

Le Beau has also been recognized for her exemplary research as a recipient of numerous national awards, including the Stohlman Memorial Award from the Leukemia Society of America, and the Distinguished Service Award from the American Cancer Society, as well as the Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research from the American Association of Cancer Research.

She earned her undergraduate degree in animal science-genetics from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in pathology from the University of Illinois Medical Center. She subsequently obtained postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago Medicine under the mentorship of Janet D. Rowley, MD, DSc, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, and was appointed to the faculty in 1986, rising to tenured professor in 1997.

Le Beau will receive the award during the 62nd ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition taking place December 5 - 8, 2020 in San Diego.