NEW YORK, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Alfred G. Knudson Jr., M.D., Ph.D., a
Fox Chase Cancer Center Distinguished Scientist and senior advisor to the
president of Fox Chase in Philadelphia, Pa., has been selected to receive the
28th annual Bristol-Myers Squibb Freedom to Discover Award for Distinguished
Achievement in Cancer Research. He is recognized for his groundbreaking "two-
hit model" that explains how cancer develops when tumor-suppressor genes are
damaged. This finding enhanced the understanding of the role of heredity and
other factors in causing cancer.
In 1971, after years of observing cases of childhood cancer and the
likelihood that certain hereditary patterns played a role in them, Dr. Knudson
focused on retinoblastoma, a type of pediatric eye cancer. While a child may
have inherited a predisposition to the disease through a genetic mutation from
a parent, he hypothesized that this hereditary form would constitute only the
first "hit" leading to the cancer. The disease would develop only after a
second mutation - or second hit - developed, either spontaneously or
He further theorized that there are genes in a cell - which he called
anti-oncogenes and are now called tumor-suppressor genes - whose function is
to stop abnormal cell growth. The later identification of the Rb
(retinoblastoma) gene by a group of Boston researchers headed by Robert A.
Weinberg, Ph.D., became the first of a large number of tumor-suppressor genes
to be identified. Such genes must be inactivated for tumors to arise.
Knudson's now-proven theories significantly advanced the understanding of how
genetic errors can turn normal cells into cancer cells and led to renewed
efforts to interrupt the process.
"Well before modern molecular tools were even available to confirm his
theories, Dr. Knudson used clinical observations, an insightful and far-
reaching understanding of genetics and mathematical models to provide a
pioneering and novel understanding of the relationship between hereditary and
non-hereditary forms of cancer," said Robert A. Kramer, Ph.D., vice president,
Oncology and Immunology Discovery Biology, Bristol-Myers Squibb. "He also
correctly predicted the existence of tumor-suppressor genes and their
important functions in explaining how many types of familial cancers arise.
As a result of these extraordinary achievements, new targets for prevention
and treatment are being developed and new paths to fight cancer are being
forged. His work has significantly propelled our understanding of cancer
formation and therefore our development of potential ways to prevent or treat
Knudson received his B.A. in 1944 from the California Institute of
Technology, his M.D. from Columbia University in 1947 and his Ph.D. from the
California Institute of Technology in 1956. He is currently both a Fox Chase
Cancer Center Distinguished Scientist and a senior advisor to the Fox Chase
Knudson has also served on the faculty of a number of other leading
research institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania School of
Medicine, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the
State University of New York at Stony Brook and the City of Hope Medical
Center. In addition to serving as director of the Fox Chase Institute for
Cancer Research until 1982, he was president of the Center from 1980 to 1982.
He also served as dean and professor of medical genetics of the Graduate
School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas at Houston from 1970
Among his numerous awards and honors, Knudson received the Albert Lasker
Clinical Medical Research Award in 1998 and was awarded the Kyoto Prize for
Basic Science in 2004.
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Freedom to Discover Grants and Awards Program,
under which the Distinguished Achievement Award is presented, was initiated in
1977. It marked its 25th anniversary in 2002 and so far has committed over
$110 million in no-strings-attached funding in six biomedical research areas:
cancer, cardiovascular, infectious diseases, metabolic diseases, neuroscience
Knudson was selected by an independent panel of his peers, in a process in
which Bristol-Myers Squibb takes no active role. The Award, a $50,000 cash
prize and a silver commemorative medallion, is awarded annually in each of the
six therapeutic areas. Dr. Knudson will officially receive his award at a
dinner to be held in New York City on October 19, 2005.
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global pharmaceutical and related health care
products company whose mission is to extend and enhance human life.
Fox Chase Cancer Center was founded in 1904 in Philadelphia, Pa. as the
nation's first cancer hospital. In 1974, Fox Chase became one of the first
institutions designated as a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer
Center. Fox Chase conducts basic, clinical, population and translational
research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and
community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit
the Center's web site at http://www.fccc.edu or call 1-888-FOX CHASE.
Visit Bristol-Myers Squibb at http://www.bms.com and the
Freedom to Discover program at http://www.bms.com/freedomtodiscover
Visit Fox Chase Cancer Center at http://www.fccc.edu
Karen Carter Mallet
Fox Chase Cancer Center
SOURCE Fox Chase Cancer Center