In 1979, Hunter discovered a molecular switch called tyrosine phosphorylation that, when dysregulated, can trigger cancer cell proliferation by adding phosphate to the amino acid tyrosine in proteins in an uncontrolled manner. This discovery led to a new class of anticancer agents known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). More than 60 TKIs are now approved for clinical use, which highlights the importance of Hunter's discovery.
Hunter is currently the Renato Dulbecco Chair in Genomics at the Salk Institute, where his lab studies the molecular basis of cancer and investigates the phosphorylation of proteins in cancer.
"This prestigious award is a fitting recognition of Tony's research contributions throughout his extensive career," Salk President Rusty Gage said.
Hunter, who is also the recipient of various other awards, said he was deeply honored to be recognized by the AACR.
"This award reflects not only my own contributions but those of everyone who has worked in my group over the past 45 years, as well as my many talented colleagues at the Institute that I have been privileged to collaborate with during my career," he said.