An icon in the field of cancer research, Dr. Marks led the preclinical research and early stage clinical trial that resulted in FDA approval of the first histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, vorinostat (SAHA; suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid), for use as an anticancer drug. Although originally developed to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, vorinostat, a hydroxamic acid inhibitor of zinc-dependent HDACs, is now being tested, with other HDAC inhibitors, in clinical trials for a broad array of cancer types.
Early in his career, Dr. Marks conducted research devoted to unraveling the genetic and molecular defects responsible for hematologic disorders such as thalassemia and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. He turned his research focus to cancer after he read a paper by Charlotte Friend, which documented how the solvent DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) was capable of inducing growth arrest in transformed murine cells. Following this study, Dr. Marks proceeded to shift his research efforts to investigating how DMSO and other chemical compounds are capable of inducing cell cycle arrest with the hopes of identifying novel therapeutic anti-cancer agents. These studies led to the development of vorinostat. Dr. Marks continues this pursuit of new anti-cancer therapies through his ongoing research dedicated to defining the normal and aberrant functions of zinc-dependent HDACs.
Dr. Marks has served as an officer in many organizations and has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. He served as vice president for health sciences at Columbia University for 7 years and 19 years as president and chief executive officer of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
2009 European Association for Cancer Research Translational Research Award
2002 The John Stearns Award for Lifetime Achievement in Medicine, The New York Academy of Medicine
1999 Lifetime Achievement Award, American-Italian Cancer Foundation
1994 Gold Medal for Distinguished Academic Accomplishments, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University
1992 Elected Fellow, The Royal Society of Medicine, London, United Kingdom
1991 President’s National Medal of Science
1989 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Medal for Distinguished Service
1987 Centenary Medal, Institut Pasteur
1976-1979 President’s Cancer Panel
1973 Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
1972 Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1972 Elected Member, Institute of Medicine
1949 MD, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University