BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards

Biomedicine 1st Edition (2008)

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Joan Massagué

Galardonado Biomedicina 2008

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Biomedicine category goes to Joan Massagué for elucidating one of the fundamental processes that control cell division. Dr. Massagué’s studies have considerably increased our understanding of the genetic and cellular bases of metastasis and have great potential for clinical application.

The research work of Joan Massagué (Spain, 1953) stands out for the identification and characterization of the TGF-beta protein (transforming growth factor beta). This protein belongs to a large family of factors that regulate the cell division process. It is essential for the organism’s normal development but is also implicated in disease processes such as malformations and cancer.

In the words of the jury’s citation, the award has been granted to Dr. Massagué “for elucidating one of the fundamental processes that control cell division, namely, the machinery that conveys the growth inhibitory signal of TGF-beta from the cell membrane to the nucleus. Many of the components of this signaling transduction pathway have been identified and functionally characterized by Dr. Massagué. The TGF-beta pathway is crucial for the development of all animals, and when disrupted, contributes to diseases such as cancer”.

Massagué and his colleagues have also developed novel approaches to identify genes involved in organ-specific metastasis. These studies have considerably increased our understanding of metastasis and have great potential for clinical application, given that 90 percent of cancer-related deaths are due to this invasive process.

Moving the frontiers of oncology

On the merits that earned him this award, Massagué reflects: “In a field as wide as Biomedicine, the fact that the jury has singled out my work is an encouragement to my group and to other researchers in oncology. We are striving to move forward the frontiers of oncology, starting from the study of very basic aspects like cell biology and behavior, that are perhaps abstruse for most people, in order to address others as concrete as metastasis, so that what yesterday seemed impossible is today a tentative promise and may in a few years’ time become a solution”.

Joan Massagué is Spain’s most internationally cited working scientist. He is currently Chairman of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York, where he has pursued most of his scientific career. He is also a researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Adjunct Director of the Institute for Biomedical Research (IRB Barcelona). He has more than 340 publications to his name in leading scientific journals, which have been cited more than 62,000 times.

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