Wang Zhenyi, 88, and Chen Zhu, 59, won the Seventh Szent Gyorgyi Prize, which was established by the U.S. National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR).
By combining traditional Chinese medicine with Western medicine, the two scientists created dramatic improvement in the "five-year disease-free" survival rate of APL patients -- from approximately 25 percent to 95 percent. Their therapy is now a standard for APL treatment throughout the world and has turned one of the most fatal diseases into a highly curable one.
"The Szent Gyorgyi Prize is about breakthroughs in cancer research, breakthroughs that are making possible new approaches to treating cancer, breakthroughs that are getting millions around the world promises, raising our hopes that cancer will be cured," NFCR President Franklin Salisbury told audience at the award ceremony.
A clinical researcher at the Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai in the early 1980s, Wang performed the first successful therapy on APL patients using all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), which significantly increased the survival rate of APL patients.
Chen, Wang's former student, made major contributions to the identification of the molecular mechanisms of both ATRA and arsenic trioxide in the APL. He also demonstrated in clinical trials that arsenic trioxide, a compound used as a traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,400 years, is effective against the APL.
Since the 1990s, Wang and Chen have worked together to conduct clinical trials combining ATRA and arsenic trioxide to treat APL patients.
"I fully understand that any achievement is the result of team work and very often continuous efforts of generations," said Chen, who is also China's health minister.
The NFCR is a leading charity dedicated to funding cancer research and public education relating to cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and, ultimately, cures for cancer.
Since 1973, the NFCR has provided about 300 million U.S. dollars in direct support to discovery-oriented cancer research focused on understanding how and why cells become cancerous, and on public education related to cancer prevention, detection, and treatment.