publication date: Jul. 6, 2018

An Appreciation

Alan Rabson, pioneering scientist and mentor to thousands at NCI, dies at 92

By Paul Goldberg

Alan Rabson, one of the premier cancer pathologists of his generation whose most recent title at NCI was scientist emeritus, died on July 4. He was 92.

The cause of death was complications from cerebrovascular disease, said his son Arnold Rabson, the Laura Gallagher Chair of Developmental Biology, director of the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, and professor of pharmacology, pediatrics, pathology and laboratory medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Rabson came to NCI as a resident in pathologic anatomy in 1955.

“In addition to his clinical responsibilities, he rapidly developed a strong research program in tumor virology,” Arnold Rabson said. “He developed new models of virus-induced tumors in rodent models and showed how different tumor viruses can interact to cause disease.


6 alan Rabson as a resident at the NCI Pathologic Anatomy Branch from 1955 to 1957

“Through the 1960’s and 70’s, he worked on herpes viruses, and figured out these viruses stay latent in the nerves and reappear later on the skin. This is the key to the biologic behavior of herpes simplex (in the development of recurrent cold sores) and herpes zoster. The latter is the cause of chickenpox and later shingles.”

Al Rabson once told me that the instant a tumor—any tumor—is mentioned, he pictures it in his mind’s eye. It’s a projection of sorts, an encyclopedia of images. His understanding of NCI and its history—the structures, the key players, and who … Continue reading Alan Rabson, pioneering scientist and mentor to thousands at NCI, dies at 92

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