Skip to main content
Tufts University School of Medicine

2020 Recipients of the Zucker Research Prizes

Dr. Gail E. Sonenshein and Dr. John B. Wong
Dr. Gail E. Sonenshein and Dr. John B. Wong
Tuesday, August 11, 2020 - 12:30pm

We are pleased to announce this year’s recipients of the Zucker Research Prizes. The prizes are awarded annually and are made possible by generous gifts from the Zucker family. The Milton O. Zucker, MD, FACS, and Natalie V. Zucker Award is awarded annually to a woman scientist on the Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) faculty for outstanding career achievements in research. The Zucker Family Prize is awarded annually to TUSM faculty for a career of outstanding research. As always, there was an outstanding pool of nominees making selection very difficult. The award winners this year are: Dr. Gail E. Sonenshein and Dr. John B. Wong.

Milton O. Zucker, MD, FACS, and Natalie V. Zucker Award

Dr. Gail E. Sonenshein is Professor in the Department of Developmental, Molecular, and Chemical Biology at TUSM. Dr. Sonenshein has made pioneering discoveries in cancer biology. She has dedicated her career to research on women’s health and to translating her basic science discoveries to the clinic. She joined our faculty in 2010 after spending many years as a highly successful faculty member at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), where she moved through the ranks and held multiple senior leadership positions. She served as Director of BUSM’s “Breast Cancer Program” and of their “Women’s Health Interdisciplinary Research Center,” which she also co-founded. Dr. Sonenshein has been continuously grant funded by the NIH or DoD since 1978 and is one of four project leaders of a cancer research consortium funded by the Find the Cause Breast Cancer Foundation to identify serum markers of carcinogen exposure. Her work has resulted in 176 publications that have received almost 12,000 citations (SCOPUS) with a Hirsch index of 63 (“truly unique investigator”).

As a beginning independent investigator, her articles on the c-myc oncogene in Nature, PNAS, and Cell illuminated the dysregulation of its expression in cancer. Pioneering studies in her lab toppled the concept that NF-kB was an activator of apoptosis, and her work was the first to establish the currently accepted paradigm that NF-kB inhibits apoptosis and that it is inappropriately activated in solid tumors. Since coming to TUSM, Dr. Sonenshein’s group has focused on identifying druggable downstream mediators of NF-kB and identified ADAM8 as an important modulator of oncogenesis in triple negative breast cancers, for which there are no mechanism-based therapies available. ADAM8 inactivation by neutralizing monoclonal antibodies dramatically inhibited growth and metastasis of triple negative breast cancer cells in preclinical mouse models, indicating it is a promising therapeutic target. Based on these exciting results, Dr. Sonenshein co-founded Adecto Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in 2014, which has licensed the ADAM8 technologies from Tufts, and is developing a therapeutic ADAM8 antibody and a companion diagnostic application to identify cancer patients who may benefit from an ADAM8 targeted therapy.

In addition to her internationally recognized achievements in biomedical research and her tireless efforts to translate research accomplishments into practical innovation in the clinic, Dr. Sonenshein has been an exceptional teacher and mentor for students, fellows and junior faculty. Maybe most importantly, she serves as an exemplary role model for women in science.

The Zucker Family Prize

Dr. John B. Wong is a practicing primary care physician, Interim Chief Scientific Officer at Tufts Medical Center, Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs, Chief of the Division of Clinical Decision Making in the Department of Medicine and Director of Comparative Effectiveness Research for the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and a Professor of Medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine. After receiving his BS with honors from Haverford College and MD from the University of Chicago, he completed postgraduate training in internal medicine and a Clinical Decision Making fellowship at Tufts Medical Center. A Master of the American College of Physicians, a Past President of the Society for Medical Decision Making, and an Associate Statistical Editor for the Annals of Internal Medicine, his research with formative mentoring from Drs. Pauker and Kassirer focuses on the application of decision analysis to medical issues to help patients, clinicians, and policymakers choose among alternative tests, treatments and policies and to promote rational evidence-based efficient and effective patient-centered care that reflects individualized risk assessment and patient preferences. Having published over 250 peer reviewed articles in journals such as the Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA, his research has examined cancer screening, shared decision making, diagnostic errors, clinical cognition, and treatments for heart disease, hepatitis C and B, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and opiate use in people who are incarcerated, among other topics. His research has led to invitations to the US Preventive Services Task Force, World Health Organization, National Academy of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, Infectious Diseases Society of America, European League Against Rheumatism, OMERACT, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement, American College of Cardiology, and American Heart Association.

Please join us in congratulating these faculty members for their contributions to science and to Tufts University School of Medicine.