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ACS announces Medal of Honor recipients

​The Medal of Honor selection workgroup is pleased to announce the recipients of our 2020 Medal of Honor, the American Cancer Society’s highest award. The award is presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the categories of basic research, cancer control, clinical research, and philanthropy. 

This year's recipients will be recognized at a black-tie ceremony in New York on November 11. Attendees will include ACS and ACS CAN Board members, volunteers from around the country, Area Board members, corporate partners, prominent scientists from the research community, cancer control partners, and others.

The 2020 recipients are:

  • Medal of Honor in Basic Research: Lewis C. Cantley, PhD, Meyer Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York. This award honors scientists who have made significant fundamental research contributions with lasting impact on the cancer field or important discoveries or inventions within the field. Cantley is a cell biologist and biochemist who has made significant advances to the understanding of cancer metabolism. Among his most notable contributions are the discovery and study of the enzyme PI-3-kinase, now known to be important to understanding cancer and diabetes mellitus. He is currently a Meyer director and professor of Cancer Biology at the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. He was formerly a professor in the Departments of Systems Biology and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the director of Cancer Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston. 
  • The Medal of Honor in Cancer Control: Leslie Bernstein, PhD, MS, City of Hope, Duarte, California. As a biostatistician and epidemiologist, she was instrumental in identifying physical activity as a means to reduce the risk of breast cancer. She is involved in projects to explore the links between hormone exposures, physical activity, obesity, and cancer. She is also examining how breast cancer impacts the lives of women after they are finished with treatment. This award honors individuals who have conducted research in and/or created and/or greatly advanced public heath, public communication, or public policy that has had a major impact and/or stimulated new directions in cancer control. 
  • The Medal of Honor in Clinical Research: Ching-Hon Pui, MD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Pui is a pioneer in translating biomedical advances to treatments, helping increase the survival rate of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) to 94 percent. His work has improved survivors' quality of life by successfully abolishing cranial irradiation. His leadership has increased global treatment access and survival rates for childhood ALL.

Originally called the American Cancer Society Award, the Medal of Honor was first presented in 1949. Since then, the award has been presented to those who are dedicated to help ease the burden of cancer. Some have earned the award by stemming the spread of the disease through exceptional work in cancer control. Others have devoted their careers to understanding cancer’s causes and cures through basic and clinical research. Still others have made a major impact on cancer through their generosity and philanthropy.  

Candidates for the Medal of Honor are nominated by members of the American Cancer Society Board of Directors and other individuals interested in honoring leaders in the cancer community.

Past recipients include former U.S. President and First Lady George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush; former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden; Edward M. Kennedy, senator from Massachusetts; George N. Papanicolau, MD, inventor of the Pap test; Robert C. Gallo, MD, recognized for his achievements in pioneering the field of human retrovirology; Judah Folkman, MD, a leading researcher in the field of antiangiogenesis; former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD; advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren; and American journalist Katie Couric.

If you have questions about this award, please email

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