In This Section
John E. Dick, PhD

John E. Dick, PhD

Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
Toronto, Ontario

Class of 2016

A pioneer in the fields of stem cell biology and molecular hematology, Dr. Dick is widely known for his discovery and characterization of normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) isolated from both bone marrow and umbilical cord blood and leukemic stem cells (LSC) from acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients. He provided the first detailed description of human LSC establishing that AML is organized as a hierarchy sustained by LSC. He showed that compared to total AML cells, the gene expression signatures of LSC are the best predictors of clinical outcome pointing to their clinical relevance. His findings stimulated research in solid tumors leading to a broader interest in the cancer stem cell model to describe tumor heterogeneity. He also demonstrated that the entire hematopoietic system and its various cell types can be regenerated from a single HSC.

Dr. Dick utilized such stem cells to create humanized mouse models that recapitulated both normal human blood cell development and human leukemia. Most notably, he developed a novel xenograft repopulation experimental system using NOD/SCID mice, commonly referred to as an in vivo repopulation assay or in vivo stem cell assay. In this assay, HSC and/or LSC are transplanted into immunocompromised mice as a means to study stem cell biology, hematopoiesis, and leukemogenic processes since the transplanted cells are able to survive and proliferate in the weakened immune system environment of the mouse. This assay has enabled detailed characterization of the molecular properties of various cancer-initiating cells for many leukemias and solid tumors. Importantly, by studying the normal human hematopoietic cells that remain present in blood samples taken from AML patients, Dr. Dick has been able to backtrack the evolutionary steps leading to leukemia all the way to the cell of origin. Thus the experimental systems he has created enable better understanding of the pathogenesis of many blood-related diseases including leukemia.

Career Highlights

2014 Elected Fellow, The Royal Society, London
2013 Canadian Cancer Research Alliance Award for Outstanding Achievements in Cancer Research
2009 E. Donnall Thomas Prize, American Society of Hematology
2009 Clifford Prize for Cancer Research, University of Adelaide, Australia
2009 Men of Distinction Award, Israel Cancer Research Fund
2008 AACR G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award
2007 Donald Metcalf Award, International Society for Experimental Hematology
2007 Premier’s Summit Award in Medical Research, Province of Ontario
2007 Diamond Jubilee Award (joint with JE Till and EA McCulloch), National Cancer Institute of Canada
2005 Dameshek Prize, American Society of Hematology
2004 Elected Fellow, Royal Society of Canada, Academy of Sciences
2002 Herman Boerhaave Medal, Leiden University, The Netherlands
2000 Robert L. Noble Prize for Excellence in Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute of Canada
1997 Michael Smith Prize, Canadian Institutes for Health Research
1984 PhD, University of Manitoba