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'Father of chemoprevention'

Lee Wattenberg, M.D.

Longtime faculty member receives national award for pioneering cancer prevention research

Ahead of the curve, Medical School alumnus Lee Wattenberg, M.D., first recognized in 1965 that certain chemical compounds improved disease prevention in animals, a discovery that helped launch the field of chemoprevention — and his own illustrious career.

A year later, he published a paper in the journal Cancer Research that laid the groundwork for research into chemopreventive compounds and coined the term “chemoprophylaxis” — the prevention of disease by chemical agents.

In recognition of these and many other achievements, Wattenberg, a professor at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, last spring received the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Award for Lifetime Achievement in cancer prevention research. The AACR states that it is the world’s largest and oldest scientific organization focused on cancer research.

The Class of 1950 alumnus has earned many awards, authored more than 150 scientific publications, and served as president of the AACR.

He has also served the University as a faculty member for more than 60 years and is responsible for encouraging other esteemed scientists to study chemoprevention.

“His lifelong work in this field has inspired scores of scientists to dedicate their energies and careers to preventing or delaying the onset of cancer,” says Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D., AACR’s chief executive officer.

Stephen Hecht, Ph.D.,a professor and program leader in the Masonic Cancer Center’s Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Research Program, says he, like many others, was influenced by Wattenberg’s work. “Lee Wattenberg has been making superb contributions to this field for the past 50-plus years,” Hecht says. “His work has had a huge impact on strategies for cancer prevention.”

Continuing his legacy, Wattenberg is currently working to identify agents for preventing carcinogen-induced lung cancer.

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