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Fox Chase Cancer Center's Knudson to Receive John Scott Award

PHILADELPHIA (November 18, 1999) -- Dr. Alfred G. Knudson, a Fox Chase Cancer Center Distinguished Scientist, will receive the prestigious John Scott Award for Scientific Achievement on Friday, November 19 at a dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in Center City. The honor recognizes Knudson's pioneering research on retinoblastoma, a childhood eye cancer, and his now-established "two-hit" theory of cancer causation, which explains how genetic mutations lead to both hereditary and nonhereditary cancers.

The Board of Directors of City Trusts confers the John Scott Award, which consists of a copper medal and a $10,000 prize. It will be presented to Knudson by the Honorable Judith J. Jamison, retired Common Pleas Court judge, who served on Fox Chase Cancer Center's board of directors from 1980 to 1997.

Druggist John Scott of Edinburgh, Scotland, established the award in the early 19th century for "the most deserving" individuals whose inventions have contributed in some outstanding way to the "comfort, welfare and happiness of mankind." For unknown reasons, Scott selected the City of Philadelphia to administer the annual honor.

The first John Scott Awards were made in 1834 for the invention of the knitting machine and a door lock. In the 20th century, winners have been chosen from an international field of investigators who have made significant scientific and medical discoveries. Famous recipients include Dr. Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Dr. Jonas Salk and Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Knudson, who won the 1998 Albert Lasker Award in Clinical Medical Research, has received many honors from around the world for his visionary insights on how cancer develops. In his initial studies of children with retinoblastoma, he found that those who developed the cancer in both eyes did so at younger ages than children with one affected eye. Children with cancer in both eyes proved to have a hereditary susceptibility to the disease.

Knudson postulated that two gene-altering events-two "hits," or mutations-are necessary to bring about cancer. People with a hereditary susceptibility inherit a particular gene defect at conception. Since cells have two copies of each gene, the remaining normal copy can protect against a specific cancer unless that gene, too, develops a mutation.

Long before the tools existed to confirm his ideas, Knudson also theorized that such genes may function as tumor suppressors unless they are altered. The proof came in 1986 with the discovery of the retinoblastoma gene, which is important to early embryonic development and normally functions as a tumor-suppressor gene later in life.

In addition to Knudson, the John Scott Award has gone to two other Fox Chase scientists in recent years. Developmental biologist Dr. Beatrice Mintz received it in 1994. Last year's recipient was Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, a Fox Chase Distinguished Scientist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the hepatitis B virus.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 37 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center's activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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