American Association for Cancer Research

About Dr. Lee W. Wattenberg

Lee W. WattenbergOutstanding scientists are defined both by the excellence of their research and their lasting impact on a field. Dr. Lee Wattenberg has long been considered “the father of chemoprevention” for his innovative research that launched the field. Equally important, his leadership and mentorship have inspired generations of scientists to carry his concepts forward.

In 1965, Dr. Wattenberg first recognized that some groups of compounds could be effective in chemoprophylaxis of carcinogenesis in experimental animals, and in 1966 he published a landmark paper in Cancer Research which reviewed studies that had been conducted during the previous 36 years. The concepts he developed in the 1966 paper laid the framework for understanding the potential mechanisms of action of chemopreventive compounds, a framework that still guides preventive agent development today.

He earned his M.D. degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1950, and except for several years as a visiting scientist at other institutions, he has served as a distinguished member of the faculty of the University of Minnesota for over 60 years and currently as Professor at the Masonic Cancer Center.

Dr. Wattenberg is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific publications. His studies have covered a wide range of chemopreventive agents, including dietary preventive substances and most recently synthetic compounds that might prevent carcinogen-induced lung cancer. He pioneered the use of aerosols to deliver drugs in lung cancer. His laboratory is currently studying processes that cause irreversibility in carcinogenesis and whether these processes could be targets for intervention.

His tireless dedication to cancer prevention is evidenced by the many seminars, lectures, and workshops at which he has presented all over the world. He was Chair of the American Association for Cancer Research’s first prevention symposium at the 1979 AACR Annual Meeting and has been a major speaker at the AACR Annual Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meetings. Dr. Wattenberg has served as Program Chair of the AACR Annual Meeting as well as on numerous AACR committees, editorial boards, the Board of Directors, and as AACR President from 1992-1993. Among other recognitions, his awards include the Naylor Dana Award of the American Health Foundation in 1991, the AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Outstanding Contributions to Cancer Prevention in 1996, and now the AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Prevention Research, which is being presented at the Lee W. Wattenberg Symposium on Cancer Chemoprevention: Past Achievements, Future Strategies, on May 26, 2011.

The American Association for Cancer Research and the Masonic Cancer Center of the University of Minnesota are proud to laud this trend-setting, innovative cancer researcher and leader whose early thinking and insights in cancer prevention put the spotlight on the potential of the field to save lives from cancer and whose lifetime work and dedication to this cause have inspired scores of scientists to dedicate their energies and their careers to preventing cancer or delaying the onset of cancer. The work of Dr. Wattenberg proves definitively that one dedicated person can positively alter the course of cancer science and medicine. Cancer prevention is his extraordinary legacy, and all of us are profoundly grateful for his stellar contributions.