Janet Davison Rowley, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago.
In 1972, using new techniques of chromosome identification, Janet Davison Rowley, M.D., discovered the first consistent chromosome translocation in any human cancer, the 8;21 translocation in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In a landmark paper in 1973, Dr. Rowley described of the 9;22 translocation in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). At that time, the distinctive marker chromosome in CML, the Philadelphia chromosome, was thought to represent a deletion. Rowley showed that it was due to a balanced translocation. Subsequently, she identified more than a dozen different recurring translocations in children and adults with leukemia and lymphoma. These discoveries changed the view of cancer researchers regarding the critical importance of recurring chromosome abnormalities in cancer cells and facilitated identification of novel cancer-causing genes at the breakpoint junctions. Her discoveries resulted in more accurate diagnostic techniques and development of effective treatment protocols targeted to particular patient subgroups. Rowley is internationally renowned for her studies of chromosome abnormalities in human leukemia and lymphoma, which have led to cures for previously untreatable cancers and the development of targeted therapies such as Imatinib (Gleevec) for CML.