Clayton Professor of Oncology
Co-Director of the Ludwig Center at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center
The Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Bert Vogelstein is a pioneer in cancer genetics. As early as 1988, his research on colorectal cancer was transforming when he proposed that cancers result from the gradual accumulation of mutations in specific cancer-causing genes (oncogenes) and tumor suppressor genes. This model forms the backbone for modern cancer research and has greatly influenced the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
His team’s novel experiments demonstrated that colorectal tumors represent clonal expansions of mutated cells and that colorectal tumors are characterized by mutations of the p53 tumor suppressor gene. They co-discovered the tumor suppressor gene, adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), showing that mutations initiate colorectal neoplasia, many liver cancers, and other tumor types.
He and his colleagues developed innovative DNA sequencing techniques and his research has revealed important insights into tumor heterogeneity, clonal evolution, the interplay between genetics and environmental factors in cancer development, and biomarkers that can be employed for the early detection of cancer. Now that most of the genetic changes responsible for human cancer have been identified, Dr. Vogelstein focuses on developing therapies and diagnostic methods for earlier cancer detection.
While each patient’s cancer has a unique set of mutations, some of these mutations—that is, the so called ‘shared’ mutations—are found in the cancers of many patients. He and close colleagues have recently developed a safe, immunotherapeutic approach called MANAbodies to target the ‘shared’ mutations.
For this high-impact, innovative research, Dr. Vogelstein and his team were selected in 2019 as winners of the NFCR Salisbury Award for Entrepreneurial Translational Research.
Additional funding through the NFCR AIM-HI Translational Research Initiative is supporting the pre-clinical research of MANAbodies. Upon completion of this critical research period, the researchers can apply for the Initial New Drug application from the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration), a requirement for treating patients in clinical trials. With approval, patients could be screened to know which mutations are present on their tumor. The corresponding MANAbodies could be used to specifically target and kill their cancer cells.
Bert Vogelstein, M.D. graduated summa cum laude with distinction in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. He obtained his medical degree and performed clinical training in pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. After postdoctoral training in new techniques in molecular biology at the National Cancer Institute, he returned to Johns Hopkins as an assistant professor of oncology. He is now the Clayton Professor of Oncology and Co-Director of the Ludwig Center at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
Dr. Bert Vogelstein has won numerous awards for his pioneering studies on the pathogenesis of human cancer including but not limited to the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research, a Gairdner International Award, the G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award, the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, the Richard Lounsbery Award, the Prince of Asturias Award, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, an AACR Team Science Award, and The Japan Prize.
Dr. Vogelstein was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences in 1992, the American Philosophical Society in 1995, the National Academy of Medicine in 2001, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006. His advisory roles have included chairmanship of the National Research Council Committee on the Biological and Biomedical Applications of Stem Cell Research.