VA honors Richmond’s scientific contributions
October 6, 2016 | Bill Snyder
Vanderbilt University cancer researcher Ann Richmond, Ph.D., has won the 2016 William S. Middleton Award, the highest honor for scientific achievement bestowed by the Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development Service of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Richmond is Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and professor of Cancer Biology and Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Senior Associate Career Scientist with the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Nashville campus, located adjacent to Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).
She was honored for significant contributions to understanding “chemokines,” inflammatory proteins that can regulate tumor growth. Her research has helped lay the foundation for understanding how to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapies against melanoma, a potentially lethal skin cancer that occurs disproportionately among Gulf War veterans.
“It’s a wonderful honor to have our work recognized,” Richmond said. “I’ve been associated with the VA since 1983, and they’ve been a major contributor to our research, along with the NIH (National Institutes of Health), for more than 30 years.”
Richmond was nominated for the award by Donald Rubin, M.D., Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System’s Nashville campus, and professor of Medicine and of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt.
She is the third woman and second Vanderbilt faculty member to receive the annual award, which was created in 1960. Daryl Granner, M.D., professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, emeritus, shared the award in 2007 for his pioneering contributions to understanding the actions of insulin.
The award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in biomedical or behavioral research, is named for the late William S. Middleton, M.D., who served as the VA’s Chief Medical Director from 1955 to 1963.
It will be presented to Richmond later this year during a ceremony at VA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Richmond has been a member of the Vanderbilt faculty since 1989. Her research to identify and characterize one of the first chemotactic cytokines (chemokines), now known as CXCL1, has been continuously funded by a VA MERIT grant, and she has held a VA Research Career Scientist Award since 1988.
Richmond explained that Gulf War veterans are at higher risk of developing melanoma, and dying from the disease, compared to the general population because of their intense and prolonged exposure to the damaging rays of the sun during their tours of duty.
“A lot of our work is linking how chemokines, as inflammatory mediators, play a role in the recruitment of anti-tumor leukocytes (white blood cells) into the tumor microenvironment to help boost the immune response to the tumor, and allow these immune cells to destroy tumor cells,” Richmond said.
“Immunotherapy is the best treatment we have now for metastatic melanoma,” she said. “We’ve made huge strides in understanding how to treat this disease.”