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July 21, 2004

Renowned Researcher to Speak About the Genetic Predisposition for Cancer

WOODS HOLE, MA—Dr. Arnold Levine, of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, will discuss what is known – and what remains to be discovered – about the causes of cancer in a lecture entitled “Genetic Predispositions for Cancers in Humans” at the Marine Biological Laboratory on Friday, July 23 in the Lillie Auditorium, 7 MBL Street. The lecture begins at 8:00 PM and is free and open to the public.

Over the past 40 years, much has been learned about how cancer works. By the 1960’s, several different causes of cancer were known but the relationship between these causes remained obscure. By the 1970’s, scientists discovered “oncogenes,” altered genes that led to rapid cell growth and cancer. The 1980’s led to the discovery of tumor suppressor genes, and the 1990’s saw the identification of specific “transduction pathways” that when mutated gave rise to cancer.

At the beginning of the 21st century the human genome project has provided an almost complete list of genes and how some individuals are predisposed to disease processes like cancer. Scientists are beginning to uncover how single genes and mutations can contribute to the origins of cancer in individuals, and why some develop tumors more frequently and at an earlier age. These observations have helped to illuminate the roles of viruses, chemicals, genes and aging in the causes of cancer, and have led to the new and more effective drug therapies. The long-term result of these therapies will be cancer drugs tailored to the genetic background of the individual, and increased success in treating cancer patients.

Arnold Levine, Ph.D. is a Professor at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, and a Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in the School of Natural Sciences, Princeton, New Jersey. He was previously the President and CEO of The Rockefeller University in New York, and is one of the world's leading authorities on the molecular basis of cancer, discovering in 1979 the p53 tumor suppressor protein, a molecule that inhibits tumor development. Among his many awards, Dr. Levine received the 2000 Keio Medical Science Prize, Keio University Medical Science Fund, Japan; the 2001 Alfred Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics from the National Cancer Institute; the 2001 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research from Albany Medical Center; the 2001 Jill Rose Award from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation; and the 2003 Award for Basic Research from the Surgical Society of Oncologists.

The Marine Biological Laboratory is an internationally known, independent, nonprofit research and educational institution. It conducts the highest level of original research and education in biology, including the biomedical and environmental sciences. MBL hosts research programs in cell and developmental biology, ecosystems studies, molecular biology and evolution, neurobiology, behavior, global infectious diseases and sensory physiology. Its intensive graduate-level educational program is renowned throughout the life sciences. Founded in 1888, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the western hemisphere.