George F. Vande Woude, PhD, FAACR, a world renowned molecular oncologist and a Fellow of the AACR Academy, died on April 13, 2021, at the age of 85.
Vande Woude was born on December 25, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York. He served in the U.S. Army, then earned a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees from Rutgers University. He had a long and distinguished career with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), beginning in 1972, when he joined the agency as head of the Human Tumor Studies and Virus Tumor Biochemistry sections. In 1983, Vande Woude became director of the Advanced Bioscience Laboratories–Basic Research Program at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, a division of the NCI. He later served as special advisor to the director, and then as director, of the NCI’s Division of Basic Sciences.
In 1999, he became the founding research director of Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He later led the institute’s Laboratory of Molecular Oncology as a Distinguished Scientific Fellow and professor. He was most recently a Distinguished Scientific Fellow Emeritus.
Vande Woude focused his career on understanding what causes cancer at the molecular level. With colleagues, he cloned integrated copies of acute transforming retroviruses and compared their resulting cancer-causing gene (oncogene) copy numbers with copies of normal genes (protooncogenes). These studies have helped the understanding of how normal protooncogenes become oncogenic. He also discovered the human MET oncogene and elucidated its role in carcinogenesis. He was a chief organizer of the first Oncogene Meeting in 1985.
Vande Woude joined the AACR in 1984. From 2001 to 2004, Vande Woude served on the AACR Board of Directors. He was the founding editor of the AACR’s journal Cell Growth & Differentiation, which has since been renamed Molecular Cancer Research. He was also an associate editor of Cancer Research. Vande Woude served as chair of the AACR Council of Scientific Advisors in 2006 and in 2013, he was elected a Fellow of the AACR Academy because of his seminal discoveries in molecular biology and genetics.
Vande Woude also served on numerous AACR committees, including the Laboratory Research Awards Selection Committee from 2003-2004, the Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research Committee in 2008-2009, the Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research Committee in 2009-2010, the AACR-WICR Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship Committee in 2011-2012, and the executive committee of the Clinical Cancer Research Committee from 2009-2013.
Vande Woude was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Microbiology, and he was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among other distinguished career awards, he received the National Institutes of Health Merit Award in 1982, the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation Award for Cancer Research in 1989, the Lifetime Achievement Award in Technology Transfer from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1992, and the Daniel Nathans Memorial Award in 2010. “George Vande Woude was a brilliant molecular oncologist, scientific administrator, and devoted member of the AACR. His expertise in cancer research has had a major impact on the cancer field, and it led him to be appointed the founding editor-in-chief of the high-impact journal known today as Molecular Cancer Research. We will remember George for his innovative spirit, his unique and beloved personality, and his passion for making a difference against cancer,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR.
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