January 4, 2017

Royal Honor Conferred on Mathematics Alumnus

Portrait of Jack Cuzick
Jack Cuzick

By Eric Feezell

Claremont Graduate University mathematics alumnus Jack Cuzick ‘74 has been appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for contributions to the field of cancer prevention and screening. The prestigious title is bestowed upon individuals who have made distinguished, innovative contributions in their areas of endeavor.

Over his career, Cuzick has been instrumental in the development of chemopreventive breast cancer medications for at-risk women. Most notably, he is regarded for groundbreaking research on the drug tamoxifen, an estrogen inhibitor that has been used for decades to treat and prevent certain types of breast cancer. He currently directs the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and heads the Centre for Cancer Prevention, both at Queen Mary University of London, where he is the John Snow Professor of Epidemiology.

More recently, as part of phase two of the International Breast Cancer Intervention Study (IBIS-II), Cuzick demonstrated the superior preventative qualities of an aromatase inhibitor known as anastrozole. Unlike tamoxifen, which stops estrogen from attaching to breast cancer cells, aromatase inhibitors like anastrozole actually stop estrogen production altogether, in addition to impeding cancer growth. His findings in IBIS-II showed that anastrozole reduced breast cancer risk by more than 50 percent in post-menopausal women with elevated risk.

Prior to this work, Cuzick conducted research on IBIS-I, a breast cancer risk-prediction model that established mammographic density as a modifiable risk biomarker. He has also been instrumental in the implementation of human papilloma virus (HPV) testing as a marker for cervical cancer risk and in the use of certain HPV vaccines to treat cervical cancer.

“It is a great honor to be recommended for such a prestigious appointment,” Cuzick told the Queen Mary University. “This is particularly important for the recognition it provides of the need to develop preventive therapies to tackle cancer before it occurs, much as now is done for heart disease.

“An enormous amount of research has been carried out which has provided clear evidence of the benefits of acting early to identify those at risk of cancer and prevent the onset of the disease with appropriate medication, rather than offering treatments when it may be too late.”

Cuzick’s fieldwork has earned him ongoing recognition throughout his career. In 2016, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of his achievements “in the application of basic science discoveries to the practice of medicine, particularly preventive medicine in cancer.” The year prior, he received the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor—its highest achievement—for contributions to the field of biostatistics, epidemiology, and clinical medicine.

He has also been the recipient of the Australia and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group’s Robert Sutherland Award for Excellence in Translational Research (2015) and the American Association for Cancer Research Cancer Prevention Prize in 2012, among other honors.

Cuzick’s research interests include design and analysis of disease prevention studies, multi-arm clinical trials, asymptotic theory, and limit theorems. He has authored more than 500 peer-reviewed papers and has been published in major medical journals. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal Statistical Society, and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics as well as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

Cuzick received his BS in mathematics from Harvey Mudd College (1970) and MS in mathematics from University of London (1971) before earning a PhD in mathematics from Claremont Graduate University.