Donald S. Coffey

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Donald S. Coffey
Born(1932-10-10)October 10, 1932
DiedNovember 9, 2017(2017-11-09) (aged 85)
Alma mater
Scientific career
FieldsCancer Research

Donald Straley Coffey[1] (October 10, 1932 – November 9, 2017)[2] was the Catherine Iola and J. Smith Michael distinguished professor of urology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and subsequently professor emeritus.[3] He had a primary appointment in urology and secondary appointments in oncology, pharmacology and pathology.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Donald Coffey was born October 10, 1932 in Bristol, Virginia.[5] After failing 5th and 11th grade, he attended King College from 1951-1953, but dropped out after 2 years.[6] In 1957, he received a BS in chemistry from East Tennessee State University. He received his PhD from Johns Hopkins in 1964 in physiological chemistry.[7] He was married to Eula Cosby.


While at ETSU, he worked at North American Rayon Company in Elizabethton, TN as a chemist. After receiving his BS, he worked as an associate chemical engineer at Westinghouse Electronic Corporation in Baltimore, MD.[5] After graduation, he was rejected by 23 graduate schools but attended night classes at Johns Hopkins. While there, he began working nights at Brady Urological Research Laboratory at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.[5] He quit working at Westinghouse when he became the acting director in 1959. He was then allowed to enroll in a PhD program and studied under Leslie Hellerman in the department of biological chemistry. After failing his comprehensive exam, he was diagnosed with dyslexia.[6]

He was appointed assistant professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics in 1966 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1970. He was appointed associate professor of oncology in 1973 and he was promoted to full professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics in 1974. In 1975, he was made professor in urology. From 1969 to 1974, he directed the Brady Laboratory. From 1974-2004, he was director of research at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Coffey was affectionately known by his graduate students and fellows as "The Chief". He was the successful mentor for many notable urologists, oncologists, and pharmacologists, including Dr. William Nelson, Dr. Alan Partin, Dr. Robert Getzenberg, Dr. Kenneth Pienta, Dr. Steven Ward, Dr. Dianne Hardy, Dr. Markham Luke, Dr. Billy Isaacs, Dr. Drew Pardoll, Dr. Bud Burnett and others. The vigilantes against cancer were known as the "Brady Long Rifles", a society that met regularly and founded by Dr. Coffey.

He helped found the Johns Hopkins University Cancer Center in 1973 with the first director Albert Owens, and took over as director in 1987.

With a $500,000 grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb, he began collaborating with Drew Pardoll and Bert Vogelstein on the nuclear matrix where DNA is replicated.[8]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 1984-1988 National Chairman, National Prostatic Cancer Program, National Cancer Institute
  • 1988 President, Society for Basic Urological Research
  • 1989 Falk Award, National Institute of Environmental Science
  • 1992 Eugene Fuller Prostate Award, American Urological Society
  • 1994 First Yamanouchi Award, Society of International Urology
  • 1997 President of the American Association for Cancer Research
  • 2001 Achievement Award, American Urological Association
  • 2005 St. Paul’s Medal, British Association of Urological Surgeons
  • 2013 Elected fellow of the AACR Academy[9]
  • 2015 Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research, AACR

He received 2 NIH MERIT awards.[6]

He served on several scientific advisory and directorial boards:

  • 1993-1996 Board of Directors, AACR
  • 1997 Board of Directors, National Coalition for Cancer Research, Washington DC
  • 2006-2012 National Cancer Advisory Board

The Donald S. Coffey lectureship was established in 1991 by the Society for Basic Urologic Research. It is awarded annually at the spring SBUR meeting to a prominent cancer researcher. Awardees have included Carlo M. Croce, Philip Beachy, Kenneth Pienta, Ronald A. DePinho, William G. Nelson, Charles L. Sawyers, Frank McCormick, Angela Brodie, Peter Jones, John C. Reed, Gerald Cunha, Carol Prives, William R. Fair, Webster Cavenee, Curtis C. Harris, Harold L. Moses, Bert W. O'Malley, and Judah Folkman.[10]


  1. ^ Who's who in the World. Marquis Who's Who, Inc. 1982-11-01. ISBN 9780837911069.
  2. ^ "Johns Hopkins cancer pioneer Donald Coffey dies at 85". Johns Hopkins University. 12 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Donald S. Coffey to receive Margaret Foti Award at AACR Annual Meeting 2015". 17 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Donald S. Coffey". 2011-06-24. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  5. ^ a b c Hopkins Urology. "ABOUT US -The James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute - Urology at Hopkins". Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  6. ^ a b c [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "ETSU National Alumni Association - Dr. Donald S. Coffey". Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  8. ^ Valerie Matthews-Mehl. "Promise and Progress - The Coffey Way". Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  9. ^ Donald S. Coffey, PhD. "Donald S. Coffey, PhD". Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  10. ^ "Donald S. Coffey Lecture". Retrieved 2017-06-23.