Rowley at the White House in August 2009
|Born||Janet Davison Rowley
April 5, 1925
New York City, New York
|Died||December 17, 2013
|Institutions||University of Chicago|
|Alma mater||University of Chicago|
|Known for||Identification chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers|
Janet Davison Rowley (April 5, 1925 – December 17, 2013) was an American human geneticist and the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers.
Early Life and Education
Janet Davison was born in New York City in 1925, the only child of Hurford and Ethel Ballantyne Davison. Her father held a master of business administration degree from Harvard Business School, and her mother a master's degree in education from Columbia University. Her parents were educators at the college and high school levels, respectively, and her mother later gave up teaching to become a school librarian.
Davison attended an academically challenging junior high school in New Jersey and became especially interested in science. In 1940, aged 15, she was granted a scholarship to study in an advanced placement program at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools where she finished high school and the first two years of college, followed by completion of her degree at the University of Chicago, where she earned a bachelor of philosophy degree in 1944, a bachelor of science degree in 1946, and doctor of medicine degree in 1948, aged 23. She married Donald Adams Rowley, also a physician, the day after graduating from medical school. Rowley worked part-time until the youngest of her four sons was 12 years old.
After earning her medical license in 1951, Dr. Rowley worked as attending physician at the Infant and Prenatal Clinics in the Department of Public Health, Montgomery County, Maryland. In 1955 she took up a research post at Chicago's Dr. Julian Levinson Foundation, a clinic for children with developmental disabilities, where she remained until 1961. She also taught neurology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.
In 1962, after a year in England as an NIH trainee, studying the pattern DNA replication in normal and abnormal human chromosomes, Dr. Rowley returned to the University of Chicago, as a research associate in the Department of Hematology. She became an associate professor in 1969, and a full professor in 1977. In the 1970s, she further developed the use of existing methods of quinacrine fluorescence and Giemsa staining to identify chromosomes, and demonstrated that the abnormal Philadelphia chromosome implicated in certain types of leukemia was involved in a translocation with chromosome 9 in some cases. Translocation is the process by which a piece of one chromosome breaks off and joins another chromosome, or when two chromosomes exchange material when both break. She also identified translocation between chromosomes 8 and 21 in acute myelogenous leukemia.
When Dr. Rowley published her findings in the 1970s, she argued that specific translocations caused specific diseases, going against the established view of the cause of cancer which gave little significance to chromosomal abnormalities. Although there was some resistance to her ideas at first, her work has proven immensely influential, and by 1990 over seventy translocations had been identified across different cancers.
Awards and Honors
In 1984, Dr. Rowley was made the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. She also served as the interim deputy dean for science. In 1998, she was one of three scientists awarded the prestigious Lasker Award for their work on translocation, and received the National Medal of Science in 1998. In 2003, she received the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences of the American Philosophical Society. In 2009, Dr. Rowley was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, and the Gruber Prize in Genetics. in 2012, Dr. Rowley was selected for the Hope Funds for Cancer Research Award of excellence in the area of Basic Research and was elected to the Hope Funds Scientific Advisory Board. Also in 2012, She won the Japan Prize with two other scientists for her role in the creation of Gleevec. She published more than five hundred articles and continued her research at the University of Chicago until shortly before her death.
On December 17, 2013, Rowley died at the age of 88 from complications of ovarian cancer.
- Druker, Brian J. (2014). "Janet Rowley (1925–2013) Geneticist who discovered that broken chromosomes cause cancer". Nature 505 (7484): 484. doi:10.1038/505484a. PMID 24451535.
- Janet Rowley from the Scopus bibliographic database
- Rowley, J. D. (1973). "Letter: A new consistent chromosomal abnormality in chronic myelogenous leukaemia identified by quinacrine fluorescence and Giemsa staining". Nature 243 (5405): 290–293. PMID 4126434.
- Golub, T. R.; Barker, G. F.; Bohlander, S. K.; Hiebert, S. W.; Ward, D. C.; Bray-Ward, P.; Morgan, E.; Raimondi, S. C.; Rowley, J. D.; Gilliland, D. G. (1995). "Fusion of the TEL gene on 12p13 to the AML1 gene on 21q22 in acute lymphoblastic leukemia". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 92 (11): 4917–4921. PMC 41818. PMID 7761424.
- Erickson, P.; Gao, J.; Chang, K. S.; Look, T.; Whisenant, E.; Raimondi, S.; Lasher, R.; Trujillo, J.; Rowley, J.; Drabkin, H. (1992). "Identification of breakpoints in t(8;21) acute myelogenous leukemia and isolation of a fusion transcript, AML1/ETO, with similarity to Drosophila segmentation gene, runt". Blood 80 (7): 1825–1831. PMID 1391946.
- Thirman, M. J.; Gill, H. J.; Burnett, R. C.; Mbangkollo, D.; McCabe, N. R.; Kobayashi, H.; Ziemin-Van Der Poel, S.; Kaneko, Y.; Morgan, R.; Sandberg, A. A.; Chaganti, R. S. K.; Larson, R. A.; Le Beau, M. M.; Diaz, M. O.; Rowley, J. D. (1993). "Rearrangement of the MLL Gene in Acute Lymphoblastic and Acute Myeloid Leukemias with 11q23 Chromosomal Translocations". New England Journal of Medicine 329 (13): 909–914. doi:10.1056/NEJM199309233291302. PMID 8361504.
- Rowley, J. D. (2013). "A Story of Swapped Ends". Science 340 (6139): 1412–1413. doi:10.1126/science.1241318. PMID 23788787.
- Novak, K. (2006). "Profile: Janet Rowley". Nature Medicine 12 (1): 10. doi:10.1038/nm0106-10. PMID 16397540.
- Printz, C. (2010). "Janet Rowley, MD, continues to explore genetic causes of leukemia". Cancer 116 (2): 261–262. doi:10.1002/cncr.24932. PMID 20091852.
- National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science
- "Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences Recipients". American Philosophical Society. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
- "President Obama Names Medal of Freedom Recipients", White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 30, 2009
- "Cancer Genetics Pioneer Dies". Huffington Post. December 18, 2013.
- National Library of Medicine. Biography: Dr. Janet Davison Rowley
- The University of Chicago Medical Center. Janet Rowley, MD, receives Presidential Medal of Freedom for cancer chromosome studies, 2009
- The University of Chicago Medical Center. Janet Rowley, MD, awarded Gruber Genetics Prize for chromosome studies, 2009
- The University of Chicago Medical Center. Janet Rowley, MD, receives prestigious National Medal of Science at White House ceremony, April 27, 1999
- The University of Chicago Medical Center. Press Release, 1998 Lasker Award to Janet Rowley, 1998