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Fox Chase Cancer Center Selects Pharmacology Chairman Tew Fills New Faculty Chair Honoring G. Willing Pepper

PHILADELPHIA (April 3, 2000) -- Dr. Kenneth D. Tew of Abington, Pa., chairman of pharmacology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, has been selected to fill the Center's new G. Willing "Wing" Pepper Chair in Cancer Research. Pepper, who lives in Media, Pa., is vice chairman emeritus of the Center's board of directors and founding chairman of the Fox Chase Board of Advocates.

Friends, colleagues and Fox Chase staff raised the $1.5 million endowment for the chair in Pepper's honor as part of the Center's $38 million campaign for its comprehensive Research Institute for Cancer Prevention. Fox Chase employees alone contributed more than $250,000 toward the new Pepper chair.

Pepper was instrumental in the growth of Fox Chase as one of the first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974. He joined the Fox Chase board in 1973 after retiring as president and chief operating officer of Scott Paper Company.

According to Fox Chase president Dr. Robert C. Young, Pepper has been "our head cheerleader, a powerful advocate and a great personal motivator and friend. Wing has consistently supported great science at Fox Chase through his leadership and vision," Young added. "The Wing Pepper Chair in Cancer Research will be a lasting legacy toward the support of great science forever."

In announcing that Tew would fill the Wing Pepper Chair, Young noted that Tew "is not only an important scientific leader at the institution, he is a tireless advocate for the Center and for cancer research. He gives willingly of his time to lecture and teach both scientific and lay audiences alike."

Tew is recognized worldwide for his research on how cancer cells adapt to drug treatment and develop drug resistance-the single greatest obstacle to curative chemotherapy. When cancer becomes drug-resistant, drugs that had eliminated or controlled most of a person's tumor suddenly stop working for that patient. The remaining cancer cells can fend off damage by chemotherapy because they have developed new defense strategies. Learning how to overcome these defenses is Tew's goal.

In the seminars he frequently gives, Tew likens the cellular process of acquiring drug resistance to Darwin's model of evolution, popularly known as survival of the fittest. He reminds his audience that our planet has always been a cauldron of chemical hazards. Even essential substances such as oxygen can act in ways that injure cells. The risks must have been especially great for the first fragile one-celled organisms, Tew points out.

"One of the first things that early life form must have developed was some mechanism to defend itself against environmental toxins," he says. "The early development of a detoxification system must have been very important."

Like early life itself, Tew says, cancer tends to arise from a single cell-one with altered genes that cast off normal restraints on growth. But as cancer cells multiply, many undergo further genetic changes. These let some cells enhance their defenses and resist damage from anticancer drugs.

Tew and his colleagues study laboratory cell lines of drug-resistant cells to identify the mechanisms involved. These may include changes in the outer cell membrane that keep drug molecules from entering the cells; biochemical reactions that help break down drugs within cells; and higher than normal production of various proteins that can help flush drugs out or neutralize them before they can injure the cells' DNA.

The latter process of "detoxification" and the enzymes involved in it are of special interest to Tew. He has shown that one essential group of enzymes reduces damage from drugs by combining them with a common protective substance, glutathione.

Many cancer cells gain extra protection because they develop higher levels of these enzymes, known as GSTs (glutathione-S-transferases). Blocking their action limits this defense and leaves the cells vulnerable to drugs again, so Tew's laboratory studies various agents to inhibit these enzymes.

Another strategy to reverse drug resistance uses drug combinations that attack cells in different ways. Most drugs kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA. However, Tew found that one drug widely used in Europe destroys cancer cells by removing crucial proteins and collapsing the cell's internal structure.

Tew's research showed that this drug, estramustine, can kill some drug-resistant prostate cancer cells, while cells resisting estramustine often respond to other drugs. This two-pronged approach-estramustine plus a different drug-has improved treatment results for many men with advanced prostate cancer.

Tew came to Fox Chase as pharmacology chairman in 1985. In 1990, he was named a senior member of the medical science division. The National Cancer Institute recognized Tew for his scientific creativity and productivity by awarding him a seven-year Outstanding Investigator Grant in 1993.

Before joining Fox Chase, Tew headed the basic pharmacology program at Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, D.C. He was also assistant professor of medicine and biochemistry at Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.

Born in Dumbarton, Scotland, Tew earned his undergraduate degree in microbiology and genetics at the University of Wales, Swansea. He received his Ph.D. in biochemical pharmacology in England from the University of London's Chester Beatty Cancer Research Institute in 1976. He did postdoctoral research at Georgetown University before joining the faculty as an instructor in 1979. The University of London also awarded him an honorary doctor of science degree in 1995.

A major hobby of Tew's is photographing wildlife, especially birds. Although he often takes his camera gear far afield-to beaches in Greece as well as New Jersey, for instance-he also enjoys a national wildlife habitat behind his home.

He submits his bird photographs to the Center's annual art show. Five years ago, he assembled a series of North American bird photos in a one-of-a-kind Fox Chase Cancer Center calendar for 1996.

The G. Willing Pepper Chair in Cancer Research will help support Tew's scientific work by funding laboratory personnel, equipment and supplies.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at:

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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