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Three new honorary doctors named in Medicine

16 October 2013

Three internationally acclaimed researchers in cancer and diabetes research – Eric Holland, Israel Vlodavsky, and Andrew Mark James Shapiro – have been selected to receive honorary doctorates at the Faculty of Medicine, Uppsala University.

Eric Holland is a neurosurgeon and professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, USA. His method for tumour modelling from the late 1990s has revolutionized cancer research and is used in laboratories the world over. He himself has primarily used the method to study the molecular mechanisms behind the occurrence of brain tumours. Throughout his scientific career Holland has worked in tandem as a tumour biologist and as a clinical neurosurgeon. In this way he has set an example for younger researchers wishing to pursue translational medical research.

Israel Vlodavsky, a professor at the Cancer and Vascular Biology Research Center in Haifa, Israel, works in the research field of cancer metastases and angiogenesis (growth of blood vessels in cancer). In the 1980s he was one of the first scientists to recognize the importance of what surrounds the cell for cell activities under both healthy and pathological conditions. Today the microenvironment of the tumour is regarded as extremely important for the regulation and survival of cancer cells. He was also one of the first to demonstrate the importance of heparin sulphate in this connection. One of Vlodavsky's foremost research triumphs is his characterization of the enzyme heparanase, the only enzyme that breaks down heparin sulphate and that has been shown to be of critical importance e.g. in the formation of metastases, inflammations, and kidney functions.

Andrew Mark James Shapiro is a transplant surgeon and professor at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. His efforts have been instrumental in the development of islet transplantation into an established clinical therapy for patients with hard-to-regulate type-1 diabetes. His work comprises both clinical and experimental diabetes research. Dr Shapiro works clinically as a transplant surgeon and is now focusing his research primarily on the possibility of transplanting insulin-producing cells from stem cells and the development of improved therapies to prevent rejection processes. In summary, Dr Shapiro's many years of scientific endeavour can be described as a clear example of genuinely translational research at the highest international level that has already benefited patients.