Michael B. Sporn, MD, a Fellow of the AACR Academy who was a pioneer in chemoprevention of cancer, died September 29, 2022, at the age of 89.
Sporn was born in New York City in 1933. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1952 and his medical degree at the University of Rochester in 1959. He then joined the staff of the National Institutes of Health, where he worked for 35 years. He became head of the lung cancer unit in 1970 and chief of the laboratory of chemoprevention in 1978. In 1995, he moved to the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth as a professor of pharmacology and medicine.
Sporn’s principal research was devoted to prevention of cancer. He was a pioneer in the field of chemoprevention, a term he coined himself in 1976 to denote the use of drugs, vitamins, or other agents to try to reduce, delay, or prevent the development of cancer. Most recently he worked on chemoprevention of lung, breast, and pancreatic cancer, using animal models of very aggressive disease. The goal of these studies was to develop new and safe drugs, or combinations of drugs, for prevention of clinical disease in people at high risk. Sporn’s research influenced not only cancer biology, but also immunology, inflammation, oxidative stress, wound healing, and embryonic development.
Sporn joined the AACR in 1966. He was a member of the AACR Board of Directors from 1993 to 1995. During his extensive tenure as an AACR member, he served on many committees and held several terms as an editorial board member of AACR journals. He served on the editorial board of Cancer Research from 1977 to 1984 and again from 1993 to 2009, and was an associate editor of Clinical Cancer Research in 1995.
Sporn was elected to the AACR Academy in 2013. He was recognized with the 2002 AACR-Cancer Research Foundation of America Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention Research and the 1991 AACR-Bruce F. Cain Memorial Award. Other career honors include the Brinker Award from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 2005, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research in 1998, and the Medal of Honor from the American Cancer Society
and the G. Burroughs Mider Lecture Award from the National Institutes of Health in 1994.
He was chosen as a National Cancer Institute Eminent Scholar in 2004 and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1998.
Leave your remembrance of Dr. Sporn below.
I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Sporn many times when he was a Chairperson or speaker at AACR conferences and the Annual Meeting. He was always friendly, cooperative, and down to earth. While I have only a layperson's knowledge of his contributions to the field of cancer chemoprevention, the recognition he received from his peers for his pioneering work in this area is a true measure of his accomplishments.
Mike was a quintessential scientist, mentor, and friend. He will be greatly missed. I remember spending long summer evenings at his beautiful home in Vermont sharing a glass of wine, feasting on pizza from his wood burning oven and discussing why the extract of peonies might just harbor the next great cancer drug.
Michael gave me the impression that he was an honest medical doctor. Outspoken and frank!