Hamilton Fairley Award: Presentation and awardees

The distinguished Hamilton Fairley Award was established in 1988 to commemorate one of the founding fathers of medical oncology in Europe and is presented to candidates who are internationally recognised for outstanding achievements in cancer science and clinical/translational research.

ESMO 2014 Congress Madrid – Heikki Joensuu, Helsinki University and Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

Heikki Joensuu is a member of the ESMO Faculty for Sarcoma. He is known internationally for his clinical and translational research on breast cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST). In 2000 Joensuu and his colleagues discovered that imatinib was effective for most advanced GISTs. In 2004 they began to research imatinib as adjuvant treatment of GIST and in 2011 found that it improved recurrence free survival and possibly overall survival. Joensuu has chaired important studies on breast cancer including the FinHer trial.

Joensuu took the International Baccalaureate examination at the United World College of the Atlantic, UK, before studying medicine at the University of Turku, Finland, where he graduated in 1981. He became a specialist in oncology and radiation therapy in 1987 and defended his academic thesis the same year. He was appointed as a Lecturer in Experimental Oncology in 1988, then Lecturer in Clinical Oncology in 1990. Heikki Joensuu became Professor of Oncology at the University of Helsinki in 1994 at the age of 37, and acted as Medical Director of the Department of Oncology, Helsinki University Central Hospital from 1995 to 2009. He is currently an Academy Professor at the University of Helsinki and Research Director at the Helsinki Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Heikki Joensuu

I feel very privileged and honoured to receive the Hamilton Fairley Award from ESMO. I have been blessed with a chance to work with many talented collaborators, keen scholars and brilliant scientists, without whom I could not have achieved much. I do not know how to thank them enough.
We now see very sick cancer patients rapidly regain their strength and then live a practically normal life for many years. When I started my career as an oncologist there was no effective treatment for some of these cancers. These seemingly miraculous results may be achieved by just taking a few tablets each day. This is an immense joy to the patients and their families, and a huge improvement in care.
While realising that we are still far from the ultimate goals of the profession, I would like to dedicate my Hamilton Fairley Award to all those individuals who have contributed to these astonishing recoveries we can now witness.

Heikki Joensuu

Josep Tabernero, Chair of the ESMO Fellowship and Award Committee, in charge of continuously identifying international researchers and clinicians worthy of recognition, said: “I thoroughly welcome and embrace the nomination of Heikki Joensuu as recipient of the 2014 Hamilton Fairley Award. For more than 25 years, Heikki’s tireless commitment to the field has significantly contributed to improved cancer diagnostics and cancer care, particularly in GIST and breast cancer, with specific emphasis on research into the mechanisms of cancer origin and predictive factors.”

“Through Heikki Joensuu’s truly ground-breaking cancer science and clinical discovery, countless patients benefit from novel and combined therapies against cancer. Heikki Joensuu is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading trailblazers in drug discovery and precision oncology.”

Previous winners of the Hamilton Fairley award

2013 – Roger Stupp, Switzerland

Prof Stupp is known worldwide for his research on malignant gliomas, head and neck as well as lung cancers. He has been the lead investigator for establishing the use of temozolomide chemotherapy in conjunction with radiotherapy in newly diagnosed glioblastoma and determining the predictive value of MGMT gene-promoter methylation. His special clinical interests include new drug development and the association of chemotherapy and radiation. His work in clinical research has contributed to an important practice change in the neurooncology filed, introducing novel chemotherapeutics after many years.

He is Professor at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, Chair and Director of the Department of Oncology of the University Hospital Zurich and the Zurich Cancer Centre. Prof Stupp has been lead investigator on several EORTC-sponsored large phase III trials and is closely involved in bringing new anti-angiogenic and biological treatments to the clinic.

2012 – Jean-Yves Blay, France

The recipient of the 2012 Hamilton Fairley Award is Professor Jean-Yves Blay, for his contribution to translational cancer research.  Jean-Yves Blay is Professor of Medicine in Medical Oncology and Head of the Medical Oncology Department and the Translational Research Pole at the Centre Léon Bérard of the Université Claude Bernard in Lyon, France. He is one of Europe’s most published lead and co-authors, with more than 350 peer-reviewed papers, principally on sarcomas, GIST and immunotherapy. He writes and lectures on public health issues such as breast and prostate cancer screening programmes. He is a president of the EORTC and serves as scientific committee member of 5 cancer centres in France. He has been a reviewer for the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Blood, Cancer, Annals of Oncology, and the European Journal of Cancer.

  • 2011 - Rafael Rosell, Spain
  • 2010 - Bengt Glimelius, Sweden
  • 2009 - T.Andrew Lister, United Kingdom
  • 2008 - Yosef Yarden, Israel
  • 2006 - V. Diehl, Germany
  • 2004 - B.A.J. Ponder, United Kingdom
  • 2002 - A. Levitzki, Israel
  • 2000 - P. Borst, The Netherlands
  • 1998 - T. Tursz, France
  • 1996 - A. de la Chapelle, Finland
  • 1994 - B. Coiffier, France
  • 1992 - H.M. Pinedo, The Netherlands
  • 1990 - R. Mertelsmann, Germany
  • 1988 - G. Klein, Sweden


Candidates for the award are considered by the ESMO Fellowship and Award Committee of renowned cancer leaders. After careful deliberations by the committee, its recommendations are forwarded to the ESMO Executive Board for final consideration and selection.

The choice of the award winner is made on the basis of the candidate's scientific accomplishments. No regard will be given to race, gender, and nationality, religious or political views.

The award consists of a statuette and the opportunity to give a lecture at either the ESMO or the ECC Congress, free registration, free accommodation and reimbursement of travel expenses.