publication date: Dec. 12, 2014

Lee Wattenberg, 92, “Father of Chemoprevention”


Lee Wattenberg, emeritus professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center, died Dec. 9 at the age of 92.

His research established the discipline of chemoprevention. Wattenberg first recognized that some compounds could effectively block the development of carcinogens in animals. In 1966, he published a paper in the journal Cancer Research that reviewed 36 years of animal studies on the effects of certain compounds on carcinogenesis and laid the framework for our understanding of how these compounds work. It was in this paper that he introduced the term chemoprophylaxis.

He later investigated two categories of chemopreventive agents: synthetic compounds that might prevent carcinogen-induced lung cancer, and dietary constituents, such as the cruciferous plants cabbage and broccoli. He studied the processes that cause irreversibility in carcinogenesis and sought to determine whether and how these processes could be targeted for intervention. Also, most recently, Wattenberg pioneered the use of aerosols to deliver drugs in lung cancer.

He traced his lifelong dedication to cancer prevention to his work from 1944 to 1946 as a junior biologist with the Medical Research Group of the Manhattan Project, whose mission in relation to the development of the atomic bomb was to study the effects of radiation. This early work was inspired by his brother, Albert Wattenberg, a renowned physicist who worked with Enrico Fermi on the development of the atomic bomb.

A native of New York, Wattenberg received his B.S. from City College of New York in 1941. He then received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and was a distinguished faculty member at the university for more than … Continue reading 40-46 Lee Wattenberg, 92, “Father of Chemoprevention”

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