Albert de la Chapelle, MD, PhD, a pioneering geneticist whose work contributed to the understanding of Lynch syndrome, died December 10, 2020, at the age of 87.
De la Chapelle was born on February 11, 1933, in Finland. Following mandatory military service, he earned his medical degree in 1957 and his PhD in 1962, both from the University of Helsinki. He established a research lab at the university, and went on to hold Finland’s first chair in medical genetics.
In 1997, de la Chapelle was recruited to join the faculty of The Ohio State University (OSU), where he spent the remainder of his career. De la Chapelle was a distinguished university professor in the Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics at OSU. He was also a member of the Cancer Biology Program at OSU’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. Over the course of his career, he authored more than 800 publications.
One of his early discoveries centered on the “founder effect,” in which a population established by a small number of individuals has less genetic variation. This principle helped reveal the genetic roots of conditions that are disproportionately common in the Finnish population.
In later years, de la Chapelle began researching Lynch syndrome, a hereditary condition that raises one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer, as well as several other cancer types. His work helped identify four mismatch repair genes that lead to the condition; contributed to the development of a microsatellite instability test used to screen for Lynch syndrome; and led to the recommendation that patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer should be screened for Lynch syndrome. His work also contributed to the establishment of the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative.
De la Chapelle joined the AACR in 1998. He served as a member of the AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research committee in 2019-2020.
Among many career honors, de la Chapelle was elected to the Academy of Finland, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He received the William Allan Award of the American Society of Human Genetics in 2002 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Colorectal Cancer in 2017.
He was married to Clara D. Bloomfield, MD, a Fellow of the AACR Academy who died in March 2020.