Feb. 29, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 12

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    Scientists receive top Canadian awards

    Two University faculty members, cancer researcher Janet Rowley and neurosurgeon Bryce Weir, have received major Canadian awards for their outstanding contributions to medical science.

    Rowley, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine and in Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology, has received one of five Gairdner Foundation International Awards for Achievements in Medical Science. The annual awards include a $30,000 prize. About 20 percent of those who have won awards from this Toronto-based foundation have subsequently won the Nobel Prize, including Chicago's Charles Huggins, who was awarded the Nobel in October 1966, after receiving the Gairdner Award in January 1966.

    The Gairdner Award honors Rowley's research on chromosome abnormalities associated with cancer. In 1972, Rowley discovered the first consistent chromosome translocation associated with cancer, a crucial finding that helped to demonstrate that cancer was a genetic disease and laid the groundwork for the rapidly expanding science of cancer genetics. She has since discovered a number of other translocations associated with specific types of leukemia and lymphoma.

    Since 1972, cytogenetic analysis -- the study of chromosome abnormalities -- has provided significant insights into the disruption of cell division and the development of cancer. Precise cytogenetic analysis is now commonly used to diagnose malignant disease, to predict the course of the disease and to monitor its treatment.

    Weir, the Maurice Goldblatt Distinguished Service Professor in Surgery and Neurology and Section Chief of Neurosurgery, has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, a national "fraternity of merit" that recognizes "significant achievement in important fields of human endeavor."

    A Canadian citizen, Weir came to the University in 1992 from his position as chairman of surgery and surgeon-in-chief at the University of Alberta Hospitals. He was appointed Director of the Chicago's Brain Research Institute in 1993. He was named to the Order of Canada for his contributions to the understanding and treatment of vascular disease of the brain, particularly aneurysms and cerebral vasospasm. The author of more than 220 publications, including a textbook on aneurysms affecting the nervous system, he has made major scientific and leadership contributions to the field of neurosurgery.