Peter A. Jones, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of urology, biochemistry and molecular biology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC has been awarded the 2009 Prize for Basic Cancer Research from the American Association for Cancer Research and the Kirk A. and Dorothy P. Landon Foundation.
Jones shares the award with Stephen B. Baylin, professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University.
The prize is recognized as among the most prestigious international awards given to cancer researchers by a professional society of their peers. Honorees receive an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000. The prize was awarded in Denver at the association’s 100th annual meeting on April 20.
Jones and Baylin were selected for the prize for their work in the emerging field of epigenetics.
Researchers have determined that there is a second layer of genetic information not contained in DNA, but rather embedded in the proteins that package or surround DNA. These “epigenomes” control access to genes, allowing each cell type to activate its own genes while blocking most of the rest.
The prize cites Jones and Baylin for their work in establishing that there is a major epigenetic component in cancer causation and malignant cell growth.
“It’s very rare in science that you can say the work of individual investigators revolutionizes cancer research, but Peter Jones and Stephen Baylin have achieved that kind of paradigm shift,” said Margaret Foti, the association’s chief executive officer. “Their work has changed the way we view molecular causation from a genetic to an epigenetic focus. The potential impact of this work is enormous, and it is already resulting in significant improvements in cancer diagnosis and therapy.”
Jones, a past president of the association, serves as senior editor of the journal Cancer Research. He has received a variety of honors, including the Outstanding Investigator Grant from the National Cancer Institute. He holds the H. Leslie Hoffman and Elaine S. Hoffman Chair in Cancer Research at the Keck School.
The author of more than 250 journal articles and book chapters, he serves on several national and international committees, panels and editorial boards. He was raised in South Africa and earned his doctorate degree from the University of London in 1973.