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Dr. Larry Norton Elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

By BCRF | April 26, 2021

The pioneering BCRF cofounder is recognized for his tremendous achievements in science and medicine

BCRF Founding Scientific Director Dr. Larry Norton has been elected to one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies: the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Dr. Norton joined just eight other individuals to be elected in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences’ “Medical Sciences” category this year.

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences was founded in 1780 by several of the nation’s Founding Fathers, including John Adams and John Hancock, to honor and convene the nation’s best and brightest minds and advance public good. Previous scientists and researchers elected to the academy include Margaret Mead (1948), Anthony Fauci (1991), and Albert Einstein (1924). 

Dr. Norton has dedicated his career to eradicating cancer and is one of the foremost breast cancer researchers in the country. His personal record of research achievements is trailblazing. He coinvented the Norton-Simon Model of cancer growth that drastically influenced cancer therapy; he was involved in the development and testing of several therapeutic agents, including paclitaxel and trastuzumab; and he has informed our understanding of breast cancer metastasis and growth.

In an article for the ASCO Post, Dr. Norton detailed how the Norton-Simon hypothesis came to be:

“Nearly 150 years after the British mathematician Benjamin Gompertz developed his law of mortality, Dr. Norton demonstrated that tumors follow Gompertzian patterns in growth; in short, smaller tumors grow faster than larger ones. ‘My colleague at the NCI, Richard Simon, DSc, and I developed what would become the Norton-Simon hypothesis, which showed that because the rate of tumor shrinkage was proportional to the rate of growth, the most effective treatment plans were ‘dose dense’: frequent administration at tolerable, effective (and not necessarily highest) doses, sometimes best accomplished by using drugs sequentially rather than simultaneously,’ said Dr. Norton.

At first, the hypothesis was met with resistance by the oncology community, but Dr. Norton was spent decades working on it. ‘I moved through the system year by year to get people excited. … The Norton-Simon hypothesis eventually led to trials of dose–dense chemotherapy that changed our approach to breast cancer,’ Dr. Norton said.”

“Larry’s visionary leadership and indefatigable effort has led to the wide adoption of his scientifically based transformative treatment in breast cancer,” said BCRF Scientific Director Dr. Judy E. Garber. “His devotion to the cause has nurtured the breast cancer scientific community through the njp Breast Cancer journal and wide range of BCRF activities, including not only his support for hundreds of researchers, but also for meetings, trainees, innovative clinical trials through TBCRC, and the remarkable work of the AURORA projects. It helps the American Academy of Arts & Sciences that Larry is also a true Renaissance man. Despite all of his amazing achievements, he is always ‘Larry’ to everyone, and we all do love him!”

At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Norton serves as senior vice president, the medical director of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center, and the Norna S. Sarofim Chair in Clinical Oncology. He has received countless awards and appointments from the likes of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the National Cancer Institute, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and more.

“This honor is especially appropriate for Larry, as everything he has developed and contributed, including new treatments and ways of delivering care and supporting researchers, has always been deeply informed and enriched by his appreciation of art and science,” said longtime colleague Dr. Clifford Hudis, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. “This enabled him to envision opportunities to improve cancer care that have changed our world for the better.”

BCRF Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Dorraya El-Ashry further echoed how fitting Dr. Norton’s nomination to the Academy of Arts & Sciences is.

“At its most basic level, science is about asking questions to discover the whys of the natural, physical, and social worlds, and it uniquely marries analytical thinking with an equal dose of creativity,” she said. “There is art in science, and Larry truly embodies this duality.”

Dr. Norton and his friend Evelyn H. Lauder cofounded BCRF in 1993 at Mrs. Lauder’s kitchen table. They shared the belief that the only way to end breast cancer was through research. At that time, they also recognized a critical need for a new approach—one that provided researchers the financial freedom and flexibility to pursue their boldest ideas and encouraged collaboration across institutions and countries. BCRF made its first eight grants in 1994 and has grown to fund 275 researchers in 15 countries today.

“How fortunate we are to have him at the helm of our mission since he first envisioned the creation of BCRF at Evelyn and Leonard’s kitchen table 28 years ago,” BCRF President and CEO Myra J. Biblowit said.