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Pharmacology expert claims Norton M. Ross Award

September 26, 2014

By Jean Williams

Photo of Dr. Ciancio
Dr. Sebastian G. Ciancio
Do anything for four decades and you're likely to meet a lot of like-minded people along the way. If you're fortunate, perhaps some will make a lasting and positive impression on your life.
Such people came to Dr. Sebastian G. Ciancio's mind as he discussed his award-winning career trajectory and being named recipient of the 2014 Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research.
Dr. Ross himself was one of the people who made a lasting impression on Dr. Ciancio. The late Dr. Ross was a dentist and pharmacologist who made significant contributions to oral medicine and dental clinical research.
"I am honored to be the 2014 recipient of the Norton Ross Award for a number of reasons," Dr. Ciancio said. "Foremost among these is the fact that he is one of the first who introduced me to the basic principles of clinical research. He pioneered the concept of evidence-based dentistry, which was unheard of 40 years ago when I began my clinical research.
"We'd worked together over the years. As a matter of fact, the first monograph I ever published was with him. It was on pharmacology."
The ADA has presented the Norton M. Ross Award annually since 1991 to recognize investigators whose research has significant impact on some aspect of clinical dentistry.  Dr. Ciancio will receive $5,000 and a commemorative plaque Saturday at a private presentation luncheon.
Dr. Ciancio's career has many similarities to Dr. Ross', say his colleagues and admirers, including Dr. Marcelo W.B. Araujo, Ph.D., senior director of Global Consumer Healthcare Scientific & Professional Affairs North America, Johnson & Johnson Consumer & Personal Products Worldwide, Division of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies Inc.
The ADA sponsors the award in Dr. Ross' honor with support from Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNeil-PPC Inc., the makers of Listerine and Reach products.
"We have been sponsoring the Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research for many years, and it is an honor to present the 2014 Award to Dr. Ciancio," Dr. Araujo said. "Like Dr. Ross, Dr. Ciancio has spent his career focusing in research and academia, always elevating dental practice to match higher levels of scientific standards. Dr. Ciancio has been a mentor to several scientists around the globe, including myself, always teaching us that oral diseases should not be only treated, but most importantly prevented."
Dr. Ciancio is a Distinguished Service Professor and chair in the Department of Periodontics and Endodontics and director of the Center for Dental Studies at State University of New York at Buffalo. He also is clinical professor in the Department of Pharmacology at SUNY and a consultant for the Veterans Administration Medical Center and the Erie County Medical Center.
He is author or coauthor of more than 150 articles pertaining to periodontal disease and dental therapeutics in major dental journals.  He is editor of Biological Therapies in Dentistry, a newsletter for dental professionals, and consultant for the Journal of Periodontology. He also is editor of ADA/PDR Dental Therapeutics Online.
He earned his dental degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, where he also completed a National Institutes of Health Research Fellowship in the Department of Physiology and Fellowships in Pharmacology and Periodontology. His postdoctoral work included studies in biostatistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina; periodontology at SUNY; radio-isotope techniques at Western New York Nuclear Center; and clinical pharmacology at Vanderbilt University.
Drs. Michael Glick and Lorne Golub nominated Dr. Ciancio for the Norton M. Ross Award. Dr. Glick is dean of SUNY at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine and Dr. Golub is a SUNY distinguished professor in the Department of Oral Biology and Pathology at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine. He himself won the Norton Ross honor in 2001.
Wrote Dr. Golub, "As a past recipient of the Norton Ross Award for clinical research, I am aware that most of the previous awardees (including myself) can be characterized as academics who have been substantially focused on basic science research with attempts to apply their findings to clinical dentistry. However, I also believe that, at reasonable intervals, it would be consistent with the spirit of the individual for whom the award is named, to select an academic with a research profile similar to that of Dr. Ross whose clinical studies had a much more immediate impact on the practice of dentistry. I strongly believe that Dr. Ciancio is such a candidate."
Dr. Golub also addressed his colleague's proven capacity as an educator: "Dr. Ciancio has, more than any other individual I know, impressed several generations of students and dental practitioners about the need to use evidence-based pharmacologics in their every-day practices. He has done this through his publications as well as through his numerous continuing education courses presented to dental organizations across the country as well as internationally.
His clinical research in pharmacology has yielded a number of products on the market today and used in dentistry.
"The clinical impact of Dr. Ciancio's research is considerable," wrote Dr. Glick in his nomination letter. "Just to highlight two particular achievements — Dr. Ciancio was the site PI for the phase three clinical trial of Periostat, as well as the site PI for the phase three clinical trial of PerioChip."
Dr. Ciancio and his team were involved in development of other drugs in the pipeline and potentially on the way to market. Said Dr. Glick, who is editor of The Journal of the American Dental Association, "His two latest research projects are examples of Dr. Ciancio's creativity that still fuel his unlimited energy and enthusiasm for therapeutic innovations that will ultimately enhance patient care and health outcomes. The first project, a phase two clinical trial that assessed the efficacy of a novel nasal spray for maxillary dental anesthesia, was published in the Journal of Dental Research in 2013. The product is being submitted to FDA for approval. The second project, an efficacy trial of electrotherapy on plaque and gingivitis, is presently being conducted."
Aside from the Norton M. Ross Award honor, Dr. Cianco's curriculum vitae is replete with other awards. Some of these include the Gold Medal Award presented by The American Academy of Periodontology; the Distinguished Service Award by the United States Pharmacopeia; the Hirschfeld Award in Periodontics from the Northeastern Society of Periodontists; and the Distinguished Scientist Award in Pharmacology from the International Association for Dental Research.
He sees winning the Norton Ross and other honors as significant, again, for what it may mean to the people he's encountered along the way. "I think that the importance of them lies in the fact that they provide recognition to people who have worked hard in an area over their lifetime, really," he said. "By doing that, by providing the recognition, it helps to tell the story of the person receiving the award.  When students following you read this and know about it, it stimulates some of them to follow a similar kind of research career, not to get an award, but because of the significance of the research you're doing."
Dr. Ciancio, in thinking about first hearing that he'd been named Norton M. Ross Award recipient, reflected on what such an honor means at this, the twilight of his multiple-decade career. Again, it brought to mind key influencers along the way: Drs. Ernest Hausmann, Stanley Hazen and James English, the deans of the school of dental medicine in Buffalo – and, again, Dr. Ross, himself.
"It was sort of a reminder to me of the people who were important to my foundation," he said. "Dr. Ross, being one of them, it was an extra honor to be receiving an award named after him."