Photo of Robert A. Weinberg

Robert A. Weinberg

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For his contribution to the identification of cellular oncogenes and their role in cancer, which led to a better understanding of the molecular basis for cancer and its diagnosis and therapy.

A pioneer in cancer research, Robert A. Weinberg discovered the first human oncogene– a gene that causes normal cells to form tumors– and the first tumor suppressor gene. Together, these discoveries changed the way that researchers thought about cancer, improving their understanding of the cell cycle, and paved the way for many of the targeted therapies available to patients today.

Advances in genetics led to the discovery of over one hundred cancer cell types in the early 20th century, and it was difficult for researchers to identify the principles that cancers had in common. Weinberg and Douglas Hanahan wrote the seminal paper in January 2000, “The Hallmarks of Cancer,” that gave the six requirements for one renegade cell to cause a deadly cancer.

Weinberg’s lab continues to focus on two areas of cancer research: the interactions between epithelial and stromal cells (the two major types of cells found in mammalian tissue) that produce carcinomas, and the processes by which cancer cells invade and metastasize.

By Jen Santisi