Top 20 Most Influential Cancer Researchers

Radiology often is used to detect tumors and cancerous malignancies. But, once found, how is cancer cured? Researchers today are making astounding discoveries that can help cure cancers or put this disease into remission. The following top 20 most influential cancer researchers have offered tremendous contributions to cancer science.

This list is in alphabetical order by surname.

  1. Dr. BlackburnDr. Elizabeth Blackburn, Morris Herztein Professor of Biology and Physiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered the molecular nature of telomeres and the ribonucleoprotein enzyme, telomerase. She shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (2009) with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak (see both below).
  2. Dr. BuckDr. Linda Buck became the first to identify a family of genes that control the olfactory system. Her work, conducted through the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, earned her (with Richard Axel) the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2004. Her work is invaluable to those who work in professions that deal with aging and disease.
  3. Mario CapecchiDr. Mario R. Capecchi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2007 (with Sir Martin J. Evans and Oliver Smithies below) for discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells. This technology has allowed scientists to engineer mice with conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and more.
  4. Jewel Plumber CobbJewel Plumber Cobb, a biologist, tested Methotrexate and found it effective on skin and lung cancer, as well as on childhood leukemia. Methotrexate now is used for a broad range of cancers, including breast cancer. The recipient of several honorary doctorates and many awards, including the Kilby Award for lifetime achievement in 1995, Dr. Cobb was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in 1974.
  5. Renato DulbeccoRenato Dulbecco shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology with David Baltimore and Howard Temin for his work in the study of viruses that could cause cancer in animals and humans. In the late 1950s Dulbecco shifted to the study of animal viruses that could cause cancerous tumors, and made fundamental contributions to understanding the uncontrolled growth of cells that occurs in cancer.
  6. Gertrude ElienGertrude B. Elien (1918-1999), an American pharmacologist and biochemist, was responsible for discovering many anti-cancer drugs and won a Nobel Prize for her work in 1988, along with Sir James W. Black and George H. Hitchings. She was associated with the National Cancer Institute in many capacities, and took an active part in the American Association for Cancer Research.
  7. Judah Folkman MDDr. Moses Judah Folkman (1933-2008) was a medical scientist best known for his research on tumor angiogenesis, the process by which a tumor attracts blood vessels to nourish itself and sustain its existence. The same principles now lead to novel treatments for reviving dying heart tissue, restoring circulation to tissues crippled by diabetes and improving vision in patients with macular degeneration.
  8. Dr. GreiderDr. Carol Greider discovered the enzyme telomerase in 1984, when she was a graduate student of Elizabeth Blackburn (see above). One group within Greider’s current laboratory at Johns Hopkins has continued her original biochemistry research, working to establish the structural and functional regions within the telomerase RNA. Another group is exploring genetic questions with yeast.
  9. Dr. HartwellLee Hartwell: Hartwell discovered the genes that control cell division — genes that turned out to be the universal machinery for cell growth in all organisms. This discovery had practical applications for human health and new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. He won the 2001 Nobel Prize for his work. Hartwell retired this year as director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
  10. Dr. Haraldzur HausenProf. Dr. Haraldzur Hausen is a German virologist and professor emeritus. After defining cancers in which the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) could be found, his research team made a series of key observations that linked human papillomaviruses (HPV) to cervical cancer. This research directly made possible the development of a vaccine in 2006. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008.
  11. Dr. KleinDr. George Klein is a biologist who has specialized in studying certain types of tumors. He started a tumor biology center at Karolinska Institute and made a connection there between the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and lymphomas and other cancers. He currently serves as Professor Emeritus and research group leader at the Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center at the Karolinska Institute.
  12. Dr. MelloDr. Craig Mello and Andy Fire won the Nobel Prize for their work in RNA (or RNai) interference, a reverse genetic method. RNAi is having a dramatic impact on research, making it possible to easily induce “knock out” phenotypes for nearly all worm genes. This work may end up curing diseases like AIDS and cancer. He is working with the Tara Bean Foundation to learn more about pediatric brain tumors.
  13. Rita Levi-MontalciniRita Levi-Montalcini is an Italian neurologist who, together with Stanley Cohen, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of Nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein that causes developing cells to grow by stimulating surrounding nerve tissue. Their research plays a significant role in understanding cancers and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
  14. Dr. MullerDr. Mark Muller is a cancer researcher who studies telomeres at the University of Central Florida as Professor of Molecular Biology and Microbiology. He currently directs a nationally funded research group studying gene regulation in cancer, and his lab is very active in ‘translational research,’ or on ‘translating’ basic science findings from the laboratory directly into the clinics.
  15. Dr. SmithiesDr. Oliver Smithies was co-recipient (with Mario Capechhi above) of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells. The work entailed developing the technology to precisely tweak mouse genes, enabling the animals to provide living models of human scourges such as cancer.
  16. Dr. SzostakDr. Jack W. Szostak, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for pioneering work in the discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that protects chromosomes from degrading, along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider (see both above).
  17. Dr. ThomasDr. E. Donnall Thomas is an American physician who, in 1990, was co-recipient (with Joseph E. Murray) of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work in transplanting bone marrow from one person to another — an achievement related to the treatment of patients with leukemia and other blood cancers or blood diseases.
  18. Dr. VarmusDr. Harold E. Varmus is an American Nobel prize winning scientist and appointee as the 14th Director of the National Cancer Institute in 2010. He was a co-recipient (with J. Michael Bishop) of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes. His work creates new opportunities in cancer research.
  19. Dr. Robert WeinbergDr. Robert Weinberg, Founding Member of Whitehead Institute, is most widely known for his discoveries of the first human oncogene Ras — a gene that causes normal cells to form tumors — and the first tumor suppressor gene, Rb. More recently, his group has succeeded in creating the first genetically defined human cancer cells, work that can improve the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
  20. Dr. Walter WillettDr. Walter Willett has associated various food and drink products to cancers and heart disease. Other endpoints being examined in the study with regard to diet include diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, gallstones, and other malignancies. Dr. Willett’s laboratory is part of a larger group of several dozen faculty level researchers who are working on various aspects of the epidemiology of cancer and other diseases.
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