Robert A. Weinberg

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An internationally recognized authority on the genetic basis of human cancer, Robert Weinberg is a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the first Director of the Ludwig Cancer Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the past three decades, he has made breakthrough discoveries in the molecular and genetic roots of cancers. His lab discovered the first oncogene in 1982 and the first tumor suppressor gene in 1986. Most recently, Weinberg and his colleagues were the first to define the genetic rules that must be followed in order for a normal human cell to be transformed into a human cancer cell. The author or editor of six books and more than 420 articles, Weinberg is well known for his comprehensive cancer textbook, The Biology of Cancer. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a member of the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Medicine. He has received the National Medal of Science (1997), the Wolf Prize in Medicine (2007), the Otto Warburg Medal (2007) and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013).

Weinberg’s lab is primarily concerned with how oncogenes, their normal counterparts (proto-oncogenes) and tumor suppressor genes fit together in the complex circuitry that controls cell growth. His lab recently succeeded in creating the first genetically defined human cancer cells. He is particularly interested in applying this knowledge to improve the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. At present his lab seeks to understand how a malicious population of tumor cells, called cancer stem cells, develop their metastatic powers, and what biological conditions are required to eliminate them.