Dr. Brian Shirts: 'The award reflects the importance of prevention in cancer research.' (photo courtesy AstraZeneca)
Dr. Brian Shirts, a member of the Brotman Baty Institute, has won the Catalyst for Next-Generation Oncology Award, one of the AstraZeneca-Scientific American Cancer Community Awards, for his work serving individuals and families with hereditary cancer.
The award is accompanied by a $50,000 grant to a non-profit organization. Shirts will direct the grant to ConnectMyVariant, a non-profit organization he launched earlier this year, educating people with hereditary cancer to understand their own inherited genetic mutations, as well as finding and communicating with relatives who have the same genetic risks of cancer.
“I am humbled to be selected for this honor,” said Shirts, an associate professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at UW Medicine. “The award reflects the importance of prevention in cancer research. The funding will enable ConnectMyVariant to expand outreach significantly, both in the United States and internationally.”
Shirts created ConnectMyVariant in 2019 as a UW Medicine research project with funding from BBI. As awareness of the public health impact of the program grew, it became increasingly evident that it needed to be able to grow outside of the University of Washington organization to fulfill its potential.
“Even though our mission to end hereditary cancer was aligned with BBI and the UW, the university is not set up to do patient education on national or international level,” Shirts said. “Our research at the UW demonstrated that our family outreach strategy enhances patient experience, is considered ethical, and is embraced by newly identified relatives. Our work is exponentially more effective than traditional cancer prevention education interventions that target the general population.”
ConnectMyVariant now has more than 800 participants in four continents. Shirts is not the first BBI member to receive a C-2 award. Dr. Colin Pritchard in 2021 was honored with the C-2 Catalyst for Precision Medicine Award.
The award honors innovative individuals and organizations dedicated to making a difference for those living with and affected by cancer. Winners were selected for “their contributions in advancing cancer care, including supporting access to screening, treatment, and personalized care for people with cancer, caregivers and loved ones,” according to a press release from AstraZeneca.
“Impactful work is taking place across the oncology community, and I’m inspired by this year’s award recipients,” said Mohit Manrao, said AstraZeneca’s senior vice president and head of U.S. Oncology. “When we work together as a community, we have stronger impact and greater outcomes.”