Alfred G. Knudson Jr., M.D., Ph.D., of Fox Chase Cancer Center, Wins Bristol-Myers Squibb Cancer Research Award

Recognized for Groundbreaking Contributions to Genetics and Cancer Research

with Two-Hit Model of How Cancers Develop

Feb 24, 2005, 00:00 ET from Fox Chase Cancer Center

    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
 to 1976.
     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
 and nutrition.
     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 or call 1-888-FOX CHASE.
            Visit Bristol-Myers Squibb at and the
      Freedom to Discover program at
              Visit Fox Chase Cancer Center at
      Karen Carter Mallet
      Public Affairs
      Fox Chase Cancer Center
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

SOURCE Fox Chase Cancer Center