Alfred G. Knudson Jr. Biography

Alfred G. Knudson Jr., M.D., Ph.D., has been a senior member of the scientific research staff at Fox Chase Cancer Center since 1976. A geneticist and physician, Dr. Knudson is internationally recognized for his "two-hit" theory of cancer causation, which explained the relationship between the hereditary and non-hereditary forms of a cancer and predicted the existence of tumor-suppressor genes that can suppress cancer cell growth. This now-confirmed theory has advanced understanding of errors in the genetic program that turn normal cells into cancer cells.

Alfred G. Knudson Jr., M.D., Ph.D.

In honor of his contributions to biomedical science, Knudson has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was named a Fox Chase Distinguished Scientist and senior advisor to the president in 1992. He was instrumental as a leader of Fox Chase's molecular oncology program from 1989 to 1999. Previously, Knudson served as director of Fox Chase's Institute for Cancer Research from 1976 until 1982, Center president from 1980 to 1982 and scientific director from 1982 to 1983.

In 1995 Knudson was appointed special advisor to Dr. Richard Klausner, director of the National Cancer Institute. While continuing his work at Fox Chase, Knudson also worked closely with Dr. Joseph Fraumeni in NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. Knudson served as acting director of its new human genetics program until September 1999, when he returned to Fox Chase full-time.

Knudson's powerful insights into the development of cancer hold implications for both treatment and prevention. Tumor-suppressor genes, in particular, are important targets for prevention research, since they normally function to apply the brakes to cellular growth, and this is a topic of his current research.

Defects in tumor-suppressor genes permit abnormal, cancerous growth, so devising ways to remedy such flaws or replace the gene's missing product through medication are of interest to researchers. Fox Chase has launched a major research initiative focusing on a comprehensive scientific approach to cancer prevention.

Among Knudson's many professional distinctions, he received the the 2004 Kyoto Prize and 1998 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research. Considered "America's Nobels," Lasker Awards rank among the highest recognition for careers of distinguished work because of the extremely rigorous process of nomination and selection conducted by a jury of the world's top scientists. The Kyoto Prize is among the world's leading awards for lifetime achievement.

In 1999, Knudson received the international John Scott Award from the City of Philadelphia. In addition, Knudson has received the 1988 Charles S. Mott Prize of the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation; Canada's 1997 Gairdner Foundation International Award; Switzerland's 1995 Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Foundation Award; the 1996 Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation Award; and the American Cancer Society's 1989 Medal of Honor.

Born in Los Angeles in 1922, Knudson received his B.S. from California Institute of Technology in 1944, his M.D. from Columbia University in 1947 and his Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology in 1956. He held a Guggenheim fellowship from 1953 to 1954.

Knudson came to Fox Chase from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, where he was dean, and the M. D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston, Texas, where he specialized in pediatrics and biology. Previously, he was associate dean for basic sciences at the State University of New York at Stony Brook from 1966 to 1969. He began his affiliation with Fox Chase in 1970 as a member of its scientific advisory committee before joining the Center staff in 1976.

Knudson and his wife, Anna T. Meadows, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, have collaborated on the study of the genetics of childhood cancer.

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