David M. Livingston, MD, FAACR, an internationally recognized expert on the role of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in breast and ovarian cancer, died Oct. 17, 2021, at the age of 80.
Livingston earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1961 and his medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1965, followed by an internship and residency in internal medicine at what is known today as Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
In 1967, he became a research associate in molecular biology and biochemistry at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and then became a research fellow in biological chemistry at Harvard Medical School. He rejoined the NCI in 1971 as a senior staff fellow, and then joined the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (known at that time as the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation) in 1973.
Livingston remained at Dana-Farber/Harvard for the rest of his career. Most recently, he was the deputy director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center; the Charles A. Dana Chair in Human Cancer Genetics; and the Emil Frei Professor of Genetics and Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Among other roles, he previously served as chairman of Dana-Farber’s Executive Committee for Research. He was a treasured colleague and mentor to countless basic researchers and physician-scientists.
Livingston’s research focused on proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, most notably the DNA damage and repair genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. His seminal work elucidated the important role of BRCA1/2 in hereditary predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer and formed the basis for countless studies dedicated to understanding cancer susceptibility and how cancer risk is affected by tumor suppressor gene mutations. His laboratory also examined how defects in various tumor suppressor loci regulate cell proliferation, genome integrity, and cell survival. These studies were highlighted by his work involving the retinoblastoma (RB) signaling pathway, whereby he contributed to the fundamental understanding of how RB interacts with various proteins including the histone acetyltransferase, p300 and the transcriptional coactivator CREB-binding protein. Collectively, his research has revolutionized the mechanisms by which malignancies such as breast and ovarian cancer are understood, prevented, and treated. Throughout his illustrious career, he authored more than 235 scientific publications.
Livingston joined the AACR in 1997 and participated in a wide range of initiatives, attended many meetings, and served on several committees. He was an ex officio member of the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research Committee from 1997 to 2000, chair of the AACR-G.H.A. Clowes Award for Outstanding Basic Cancer Research Committee in 2002, a member of the AACR-Genentech Biooncology CDA/Fellowship for Cancer Research on the HER Family Pathway Committee from 2013 to 2015, and chair of the AACR Laboratory Research Awards Committee from 2016 to 2017 after serving as a member from 2015-2016. He also served on the editorial board of Molecular Cancer Research.
In addition to his AACR service, Livingston was a revered and beloved supporter of the Pezcoller Foundation. His participation in foundation activities included serving as Chair of the Pezcoller Foundation Scientific Standing Committee, a position that he started in 2008 alongside the late Enrico Mihich, MD. In this role, he participated in leading the annual Pezcoller Foundation Symposium. Most recently, Livingston continued in this role by serving as co-organizer of the 32nd Pezcoller Symposium dedicated to aging and cancer, which was held in June 2021.
In recognition of his research accomplishments, Livingston was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2014. He was also recognized with the AACR-G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award for Outstanding Basic Cancer Research in 2005 and the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research in 2017.
Livingston was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also a member of the Association of American Physicians, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the American Society for Microbiology, and the American Academy of Microbiology. He was a Foreign Associate of the European Molecular Biology Organization and served as vice chair of the Board of the Damon Runyan Cancer Research Foundation.
Among many career awards, Livingston was recognized with the Richard P. and Claire W. Morse Scientific Award from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 1991; the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Award for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences and the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction from Susan B. Komen in 1997; the Lila Gruber Award for Cancer Research from the American Academy of Dermatology in 2001; the Theodor Boveri Award from the German Cancer Society in 2005; the Anthony Dipple Carcinogenesis Award from the European Association for Cancer Research in 2009; the Alexander Bodini Foundation Prize from the American-Italian Cancer Research Fund in 2011; and the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation Medical Research Award in Cancer Research in 2012. “David Livingston was a brilliant translational researcher whose understanding of molecular biology and genetics led to enduring improvements in the research and treatment of breast and ovarian cancer,” said AACR CEO, Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc). “He will be remembered as an extraordinary researcher and leader in the cancer field not only because of his remarkable intellect, but also for his innovative spirit and unique ability to identify scientific opportunities that have the potential to move the field forward and save more lives from cancer.”
Leave your remembrance of Dr. Livingstone below.
David was a one of a kind brilliant scientist and overall individual. I am so saddened by his passing and feel a tremendous loss of a role model and friend. Deepest condolences to his family friends and all his colleagues.
Saddened by his passing. I was fortunate to know him through several collaborative studies on the mechanism of hypoxic response and was always amazed by his brilliant thinking and exceptional vision.
He will be greatly missed.
Brilliant brains do not die, but leave a legacy. Many lives were saved by David's brilliant thinking. May his soul rest in peace
It was with great sadness I received the message that David had passed away.
It was an honor for me to know him, and I will always remember his great talks over the years and the many very lively discussions we had during my time as EACR president, AACR board member, and in particular the time in Trento with the Pezcoller Foundation.
He will be missed by many!
I'm very sorry to hear this. I applied to David as a post doc in 1992. He declined me, but directed me to Bill Kaelin's lab, as Bill was just setting up at the time. David continued to be a great mentor during my post doc and often supported me during and afterwards. An outstanding mentor and scientist. He will be missed.