Recorded: 03 Jun 2016
Well it led to, in the years that followed, a race to isolate that gene by the then new technology of gene cloning and that succeeded in my lab and two other labs one here at Cold Spring Harbor and Michael Wigler and in the years after that one began to determine the difference between the cancer gene residing in a cancer cell and a corresponding gene that resided in a normal cell. And one could trace that difference between the two genes to a very subtle mutation – a small mutation. A single change in a single base of DNA that was responsible for converting a normal gene. Often one calls the normal gene a proto-oncogene into an active oncogene as a consequence ostensibly of exposure to a chemical carcinogen in the case of the oncogene that arose it was isolated from a bladder carcinoma cell line of a 55 year old man who had smoked since he was a teenager and in whom undoubtedly grams and grams of carcinogenic molecules had passed into his lungs, were excreted in his urinary bladder and while they were there had attacked and damaged normal cells lining the wall of the bladder, mutating their DNA. So one could really put together a story of how this particular cancer, this bladder carcinoma actually arose.
Robert "Bob" Weinberg is Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research and director of the Ludwig Cancer Center at MIT, an American Cancer Society Research Professor, and is a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.
In 1982 he was one of the scientists to discover the first human oncogene, Ras, which causes normal cells to form tumors, and his lab also isolated the first known tumor suppressor gene, Rb.
He co-authored with Douglas Hanahan the landmark "Hallmarks of Cancer" paper in 2000, which laid out the six requirements for a healthy cell to become cancerous.