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Dr. Robert Gagel Receives Jean Vicks Inspiration Award

Monday, August 31, 2020   (0 Comments)
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During the ITOG General Membership meeting on July 30th, 2020, the Board of Directors was pleased to present Dr. Robert Gagel with the Jean Vicks Inspiration Award for his significant contributions to thyroid cancer research over the past year. Named for co-founder Dwight Vicks’ wife Jean, who bravely faced medullary thyroid cancer for thirteen years, the Jean Vicks Inspiration Award honors outstanding International Thyroid Oncology Group (ITOG) members for their commitment and contribution to the organization.


Robert Gagel, MD, is a professor of medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and an adjunct professor in the Departments of Medicine and Cell Biology at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Gagel’s research on the development of strategyies to prevent and treat medullary thyroid carcinoma has been trailblazing over his 40+ year career.

As one of the founders of ITOG, Dr. Gagel, along with Barry Nelkin, invited the original attendees to the first ITOG meeting at the Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN) Conference in 2003. Dr. Gagel was elected the first ITOG chair and worked diligently to launch the organization, establish the organizational structure and recruit the best talent. His kind and respectful demeanor provided outstanding leadership that was vital in establishing the collaborative culture essential to the mission of ITOG. Thus, it was only fitting that the $100,000 grant available to ITOG members for compelling research that will lead to better thyroid cancer treatments was named The Robert F. Gagel Discovery Award.

Currently, as the principal investigator at the Gagel Laboratory in the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Gagel studies the molecular mechanisms causative for hereditary and sporadic medullary thyroid cancer using in vitro cell culture models of medullary thyroid carcinoma, elucidating the role of the RET proto-oncogene in the development of medullary thyroid carcinoma. His research team has also characterized the role of the calcium-sensing receptor in human disease and defined mechanisms for alternative RNA processing of the calcitonin gene. More recently, they demonstrated that RET, upon activation, is translocated to the

nucleus where it interacts with the transcription factor ATF4 which, in turn, leads to its downregulation and an inhibition of apoptosis. It is now clear that this is the major mechanism by which RET activation leads to cellular transformation. Dr. Gagel’s current research projects focus on the role of the RET proto-oncogene in the genesis of bone metastasis in medullary thyroid carcinoma. Future goals for his laboratory include the identification of other nuclear factors that interact with RET and whether this information can be used therapeutically to treat medullary thyroid carcinoma.

“I’m honored to be working with such a wonderful group of people,” Dr. Gagel said upo

receiving the award. “We have come a long way, but there is still so much more to be done.”n

ITOG is a multidisciplinary team of leading physicians, scientists, and advocates working to catalyze a cure for thyroid cancer through state-of-the-art clinical trials.

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