PORTLAND, Ore. - Dr. Paul Talalay, a pioneer in the study of dietary phytochemicals that help protect against cancer, on Wednesday was awarded the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research.
This award, which includes a medal and $50,000 honorarium, is one of the leading honors in the world today for scientists studying micronutrients, diet and other natural approaches to disease prevention or therapy.
Talalay received the honor and delivered a plenary lecture during the first day of an international conference on Diet and Optimum Health in Portland, organized by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
Talalay is the John Jacob Abel Distinguished Service Professor of Pharmacology, and director of the Laboratory for Molecular Pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is one of the leaders in developing strategies to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases. Talalay has focused on dietary approaches and is widely known for his studies of vegetables like broccoli that induce protective enzymes in the body and help prevent the development of cancer.
"Dr. Talalay's scientific work has provided unprecedented insight into the cellular mechanisms by which dietary constituents in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables protect against cancer," said Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute. "His work is unique, linking basic molecular studies with research that's directly relevant to diet and human health, in ways that parallel the work of Linus Pauling."
"Dr. Talalay's brilliant scientific career and accomplishments bring great distinction to the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research," Frei said.
Talalay's entire career has been devoted to cancer research, and for the last 25 years his laboratory has been involved in devising methods for protecting against cell oxidative damage. He developed simple cell culture methods to detect phytochemicals that can ultimately help detoxify carcinogens. This work led to the isolation of sulforaphane, a key component of broccoli and other vegetables, which has potent anti-cancer properties. When his findings on this topic were published in 1992 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they garnered international attention as an important breakthrough in cancer prevention.
Talalay, who received his medical degree from Yale University, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, holds a lifetime professorship in the American Cancer Society, and has published more than 250 papers in international scientific journals.
In nominating him for this award, one colleague said that Talalay's work over the past quarter century "provides the most pragmatic approach for cancer chemoprevention in the global population. . . and his findings are likely to be applicable to other chronic degenerative diseases." Follow up studies on Talalay's findings are being pursued in laboratories around the world.
Other experts note that Talalay has "influenced and mentored a generation of scientists to develop this field," and his work provides "a clear path for the development of much-needed new strategies for cancer prevention, with tremendous implications for public health."
The Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research was established in 2001, and recognizes excellence in research into the role of micronutrients, vitamins and phytochemicals in promoting health and preventing or treating disease. The research focus of the institute is to learn more about the mechanisms by which diet and oxidative stress affect some of the most important disease processes of humans, such as heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease and aging. The late Linus Pauling, the institute's founder, was a two-time Nobel laureate and OSU alumnus.
Previous recipients of the prize are Bruce Ames of the University of California, Berkeley, and Walter Willett of Harvard University.
The conference, which began Wednesday in Portland, has attracted dozens of the world leaders in natural approaches to health, to present their work on such topics as exercise and health; lifestyle and genetic influences on bone health; the health benefits of antioxidants and flavonoids; the use of metal chelators for disease prevention and treatment; and the benefits and risks of alcohol consumption.
A free public session will be held on Saturday, May 21, featuring a panel discussion by renowned nutrition experts on the U.S. food guide pyramid and the question "what should Americans eat to be healthy?"