Blackwell receives Duke Distinguished Alumni Award

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Kimberly Blackwell, MDThe Duke Alumni Association has recognized Kimberly Blackwell, MD, professor of medicine (Medical Oncology), with a Distinguished Alumni Award.

The award is the alumni association's highest honor. The alumni who receive this honor have distinguished themselves by the contributions they have made in their particular fields or professions, in service to Duke University and to the betterment of humanity. Read the award announcement below.

Leading the way in cancer research

Kimberly Blackwell embodies the innovation, passion and drive that make Duke University the special place it is — and the way she is using her talents makes her the special person we want to honor.

As a clinical oncologist at Duke since 1994 and now as the director of the breast cancer program at the Duke Cancer Institute, Blackwell has dedicated her time, research and expertise to the mission of fighting breast cancer and saving the lives of women everywhere.

Over the past several years, Dr. Blackwell developed a new breast-cancer treatment known colloquially as the “smart bomb.” The FDA approved the treatment — officially named T-DM1 — in 2013. T-DM1 attacks a particular protein found in an aggressive type of late-stage breast cancer while leaving the healthy cells untouched. The results are nothing short of miraculous. Women undergoing Dr. Blackwell’s treatment are surviving at higher rates and experiencing fewer chemotherapy side effects.

Blackwell also played a major role in the development of another breast cancer drug known as lapatinib. Her research work at Duke as the principal investigator for these two drug trials established Duke as the place where two of the last six drugs approved for breast cancer were engineered.

Blackwell’s groundbreaking research in the fight against cancer earned her a spot on TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” list in 2013.

In addition to her innovative research, Blackwell also serves as professor of medicine and assistant professor of radiation oncology at Duke University Medical Center and maintains an active clinical practice. Her clinical and research interests surround the formation of blood vessels in breast cancer, breast cancer in younger women and hormonal therapy.

“The Duke community is what kept me here,” Blackwell says. “The brain-tumor group at Duke has a slogan: ‘At Duke there’s hope.’ And that’s really true. We do things here that can’t be done anywhere else.”