PITTSBURGH, February 13, 2007 Robert A. Weinberg, Ph.D., whose groundbreaking research led to the first isolation of a gene that prompts normal healthy cells to develop into malignancies, will deliver the 2007 Bernard Fisher Lecture, named in honor of University of Pittsburgh pioneering breast cancer researcher, Bernard Fisher, M.D., at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 28.
Dr. Weinberg, a Pittsburgh native who is the Daniel K. Ludwig Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will speak in Auditorium 6, Scaife Hall, 3550 Terrace St., on Pitts Oakland campus. His topic will be Mechanisms Leading to the Formation of Human Tumors. The event is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow the lecture in Room 1105, Scaife Hall.
Dr. Weinberg's remarkable career has helped elucidate some of the most fundamental issues regarding the genetic causes of cancer and the mechanisms of metastasis, said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. His visit will be a most fitting tribute to Dr. Fisher, whose research contributions involving breast cancer and its metastatic nature have achieved iconic stature.
Most widely known for leading the efforts that isolated the first human oncogenea gene that can cause normal cells to form tumors and the first known tumor suppressor gene, Dr. Weinberg has focused his current research on human cancer cells ability to invade nearby tissues and disperse to distant sites in the body, generating metastases there. His lab has determined that tumor cells metastasize by awakening genes that are normally dormant after embryogenesis. Metastasis is a particularly important subject for study because 90 percent of cancer deaths occur as a result of metastasis rather than the original, primary tumor.
Dr. Weinberg, also a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, recently was named head of MITs new Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology, which will focus on the biology of cancer metastasis. He completed his undergraduate and doctoral work in biology at MIT, where he has been a professor of biology since 1982, the same year in which he was named Discover magazines Scientist of the Year. Dr. Weinberg is a winner of the National Medal of Science, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Lecture namesake Dr. Fisher, a 1943 graduate of Pitts medical school, is a distinguished service professor of surgery at the school. He also is past chairman and scientific director of the Pittsburgh-based research consortium known as the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, which, in the late 1960s, found radical mastectomy to be no more effective than total mastectomy and, in turn, total mastectomy to be no more effective than lumpectomy in treating breast cancer. In 1990, Dr. Fishers group went on to show the effectiveness of adjuvant chemotherapy and hormonal therapy (tamoxifen) in treating breast cancer as a systemic disease, not one that could be cured by surgery alone. In subsequent studies, he found that tamoxifen substantially reduces the incidence of breast cancer in high-risk women, providing evidence that breast cancer can be both treated and prevented.
Dr. Fishers many honors and awards include the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award, the General Motors Cancer Research Foundations Kettering Prize, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research, the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor and the American Surgical Association Medallion for Scientific Achievement.