Dr. Charles J. Sherr pioneered studies of the mechanics of cell division cycle control and the manner by which the functions of key cell cycle regulators are perturbed in cancer. He is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Herrick Foundation Chairman of the Department of Tumor Cell Biology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. He earned his A.B. degree with honors at Oberlin College in 1966, and received both the M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in 1972 from New York University School of Medicine and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, respectively. Dr. Sherr joined the National Cancer Institute in 1973, where he initiated early studies of retroviral oncogenes. In 1983, he relocated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, as the founder of the Department of Tumor Cell Biology and was appointed to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1988. Dr. Sherr continues as an HHMI Investigator and has remained at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital throughout the development and expansion of its scientific programs over the last 32 years.
Dr. Sherr's laboratory discovered the FMS oncogene, demonstrated that it encoded the cell surface receptor for colony-stimulating factor-1 (CSF-1), and mapped receptor mutations that induced aberrantly constitutive signaling and oncogenic activity. His subsequent identification of growth factor-responsive mammalian D-type cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinase-4 (CDK-4), and the demonstration that cyclin D-CDK4 complexes triggered the phosphorylation of the retinoblastoma protein (RB), helped to reveal how mammalian cells respond to extracellular cues in regulating their cell division cycle. Investigations of CDK4 inhibitory ("INK4") proteins led to the discovery of the ARF tumor suppressor, an oncogene-activated arbiter of the p53 transcriptional response. Mutations affecting the expression of genes encoding many of these proteins – namely, the D-type cyclins, CDK4, INK4A, RB, ARF, and p53 – are among the most frequently observed events in human cancer.
Dr. Sherr was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995, to the Institute of Medicine in 2004, and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013. He was elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation in 1986 and to the Association of American Physicians in 1991; he became a Fellow of the American Society for Microbiology in 1994, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010, and was chosen as an Inaugural Fellow of the Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research in 2013. Among several prestigious awards, Dr. Sherr received the AACR Pezcoller International Award for Cancer Research and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research in 2000, the AACR-Landon Prize for Basic Cancer Research in 2003, and the General Motors Cancer Foundation Charles S. Mott Prize in 2004.