National Anti-Vivisection Society Award Winner Shines on “Ellen”

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Young scientist honored with NAVS’ Humane Science Award for non-animal breast cancer research methods receives more recognition

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Non-animal models are the future of scientific breakthroughs. And it is researchers like Sara whose vision will lead to innovations that advance science without harming animals.

Sara Sakowitz, whose innovative, non-animal-based research into breast cancer treatments was chosen as the First Place winner of the 2014 National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) Humane Science Award, was featured on a recent episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on ABC Television.

Sakowitz, 18, received the NAVS award this spring at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) for her work into halting the spread of deadly cancers, including metastatic breast cancer. Sakowitz’ interest in breast cancer began at the age of nine, when a close relative died from the disease.

On the September 18 episode of “Ellen,” Sakowitz explained that “genes are kind of like ‘on/off’ switches, and against cancer, genes can actually act like an army.” She noted that “everyone has genes that can prevent the spread of cancer, but when cancer starts, a lot of these genes are actually switched off. What I’ve been working to do is turn on these important anti-cancer genes.” She sees the treatment breakthrough as having broad-reaching applications, observing that “the mechanism that underlies the therapy is not only found in breast cancer—it’s found in everything from lung cancer to colon cancer.”

Sakowitz, who is studying biomedical engineering as a freshman at Columbia University in New York City, told NAVS that she’s excited to delve further into biomedical engineering and develop better models of human disease.

“There are so many differences between humans and mice,” she says. “What is happening in a mouse isn’t always translating accurately to what is happening in the human body when research progresses into clinical trials.”

At the conclusion of the “Ellen” interview, DeGeneres presented Sakowitz with a $50,000 check from Google toward the continuation of her important research. NAVS is encouraged by the increased attention and recognition being given to Sakowitz’s work.

“Non-animal models are the future of scientific breakthroughs,” says NAVS Science Advisor Gene Elmore, Ph.D. who was one of the team of judges who deemed Sakowitz’s work worthy of top honors. And it is researchers like Sara whose vision will lead to innovations that advance science without harming animals.”

Since 2001, NAVS has given the Humane Science Award at Intel ISEF to students whose projects demonstrate innovations that replace the use of animals in science. NAVS is the only animal advocacy organization permitted to present awards at Intel ISEF.

Founded in 1929, the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) promotes greater compassion, respect and justice for animals through educational and advocacy programs based on respected ethical, scientific and legal theory. NAVS works to increase public awareness about animal experimentation, to promote positive solutions that advance science, to support the development of alternatives to the use of animals, and to effect changes that will help end the unnecessary suffering of animals. For more information, visit

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Garett Auriemma
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