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Nobel Prize winner Renato Dulbecco passes away

Nobel Prize winner Renato Dulbecco passes away

TRIBUTES have been paid to Renato Dulbecco, whose work helped transform the course of cancer research. He died recently, aged 97.

It was while working at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the late 1950s that Dr. Dulbecco carried out vital research which was to show how viruses can cause cancer.

Virologists have known for many years that certain viruses could cause tumours in animals, but what remained unknown was how this happened or to what extent the process could affect humans.

Dr. Dulbecco introduced viral DNA from the polyomavirus into mouse cells and was eventually to establish that a viral infection could have two distinct effects upon cells. He was able to show that the virus would either multiply inside cells, killing the cells and causing the release of thousands of new viruses or that genetic material from the virus could make its way into the nuclei of cells and alter cellular DNA, triggering uncontrolled cellular growth and division — a key feature of cancer.

This research clearly showed that changes in the genome could lead to cancer and helped transform the course of research into the disease. It laid the groundwork for a number of viruses to be linked to human cancers.

For his work, Dr. Dulbecco shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Howard Temin and David Baltimore. 

Dr. Dulbecco had been born in Italy but emigrated to the United States following the World War II.


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