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ESMO Announces Winners of its Awards 2020

25 Aug 2020
Cancer Research

LUGANO, Switzerland - The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), the leading organisation for medical oncology, has announced the winners of the ESMO awards 2020. This year’s recipients of the four coveted distinctions are leaders in their respective fields who have also helped many of their fellow oncologists to advance in their professional careers. The award lectures will be delivered during the week between 12-15 October on the occasion of the Education weekend of the ESMO Virtual Congress 2020. (1)

ESMO Award 2020 honours Hans-Joachim Schmoll


The ESMO Award 2020 is to be presented to Prof. Hans-Joachim Schmoll, Head of the Clinical Oncology Research division at the University Clinic of Martin Luther University in Halle, Germany, for his outstanding contribution to developing medical oncology as a speciality in Germany and internationally. As editor of the German standard reference book for medical and multidisciplinary oncology, the architect of many practice-changing clinical trials in the field of colorectal and germ cell cancer, as well as the founder and chair of several international consensus conferences and guidelines committees, Schmoll has been instrumental to defining treatment standards and education in medical oncology over the course of several decades. He authored the very first ESMO consensus recommendations for germ cell tumours in 2008 and the ESMO Consensus Guidelines for the Management of Patients with Metastatic Colorectal Cancer. He established the AIO (“Arbeitsgemeinschaft Internistische Onkologie”) clinical trial groups and network, an active, internationally recognised initiative to further clinical and translational research and oncology training in all cancer types. Through advocacy to change his country’s voting on the subject, Schmoll also played a key role in obtaining EU recognition of medical oncology as a speciality.

“As a young fellow in the early 70s, I got the opportunity to investigate the potential of the new drug ‘ifosfamide’. This eventually led me to develop combination chemotherapy for patients with refractory germ cell cancer for first and further lines of treatment, together with secondary surgery and radiation: the model of a multimodal approach,” Schmoll reported. “Hoping to reproduce this success in other tumour types, my team later turned to GI cancer: that journey is still ongoing. As doctors and scientists, it’s important that we remain enthusiastic and work hard to give our patients the best available care. That’s why I am deeply honoured to receive this prestigious award, and why I want to dedicate it to all the highly committed fellows, scientists and research teams who have accompanied me over the years. Their contributions made these achievements possible.”

Nadia Harbeck earns the ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award 2020


Prof. Nadia Harbeck, Head of the Breast Centre and Chair of Conservative Oncology at the LMU University Hospital’s department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Germany, has won this year’s ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her career-long commitment to global cancer research and education. Harbeck has for many years served on international expert panels to issue evidence-based guidelines for breast cancer care, alongside her ground-breaking research in individualising breast cancer therapy. Over the last few decades, she has led several phase III trials that established biomarkers as stratification criteria for therapy decision-making and demonstrated that careful analysis of the breast tumour and its early changes under therapy can replace “one-size-fits-all” treatment approaches to the benefit of patients.

“To receive this award as a gynaecologist who has spent her career individualising treatment for early breast cancer shows that ESMO is a truly interdisciplinary society: The impact you make on cancer patients’ lives – independent of your training or speciality – is the most meaningful legacy you can leave in the oncology community,” Harbeck commented.  “I see this award as a tremendous motivation and milestone in our quest to convert scientific insights into patient benefit in early breast cancer by de-escalating therapy whenever feasible and escalating only when needed. I am deeply grateful to my family who has always supported me in my efforts, and to my colleagues at the West German Study Group (WSG) for their scientific creativity and persistence in turning truly visionary trial ideas into potentially practice-changing results.”

Antoni Ribas wins the ESMO Award for Translational Research 2020 


The 2020 winner of the ESMO Award for Translational Research is Prof. Antoni Ribas, Director of the Tumour Immunology Programme at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Centre (JCCC) and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI) at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), USA. The award recognises Ribas’ impressive body of translational research work in malignant melanoma, focusing on gene-engineered T cells, PD-1 blockade and BRAF targeted therapies. Among other things, he studied the mechanistic basis of how patients respond to or develop resistance to these therapies through specific genetic events. His studies have led to new combination therapies that are being successfully advanced in the clinic.

“I want to share the honour of receiving the ESMO Award for Translational Research with the members of my laboratory, with my research colleagues and trainees,” Ribas stated. “Our goal has been to conduct research that improves the treatment of patients with cancer, and this award is a recognition of the translational impact of our work.”

ESMO Women for Oncology Award 2020 goes to Caroline Robert


Prof. Caroline Robert, Head of Dermatology at the Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus and Co-Director of the Melanoma Research Unit at the INSERM 981 Paris-Sud University, was chosen to receive the ESMO Women for Oncology Award 2020. The distinction comes in tribute to Robert’s long-standing commitment to supporting and mentoring her female colleagues, helping more women to rise through the ranks in medical oncology. As a woman holding leadership positions at world-class cancer care and research institutions, Robert is a strong role model for the next generation of female oncologists.

“It is a great time to be working in our field: a lot is happening and we feel that we can be the agents of change that will improve the future of patients with cancer. Winning this award gives me even more energy and strength to pursue the goal of seeing more patients saved from melanoma, and that’s why I would like to tell my female colleagues, in particular, that they should not compromise on their passion and ambition to work in this speciality for any reason,” Robert said.

Notes to Editors

(1) The awardees will give their Award lectures on the occasion of the ESMO Virtual Congress 2020:

  • ESMO Award on Monday, 12 October, 15:00-15:30
  • ESMO Award for Translational Research, Tuesday, 13 October, 15:00-15:30
  • ESMO Women for Oncology Award, Wednesday, 14 October, 15:00-15:30
  • ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award, Thursday, 15 October, 15:00-15:30

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