Dr. Janet Davison Rowley

In the 1970s, Dr. Janet Rowley brought a new understanding to the role of genetics in disease when she demonstrated that the translocation of chromosomes played a significant role in some cancers. A dedicated student, she received a scholarship to the University of Chicago when she was fifteen years old, and completed the last two years of high school and the first two years of college in an accelerated program of study at the University. She stayed on to complete her pre-medical training and attend the medical school and graduated with an M.D. degree in 1948. She married Donald Rowley, also a physician, the day after graduating from medical school. For twenty years, Dr. Rowley chose to work part-time, in order to be with her children. When the youngest was twelve, she turned to full-time research. She became interested in genetics while working at the Dr. Julian Levison Foundation, a clinic for children with developmental disabilities. In 1961, funded by the National Institutes of Health, she traveled to Oxford, England, to study chromosomes at a radiobiology laboratory. There, she investigated the pattern of DNA replication in normal and abnormal human chromosomes. A year later, at the end of the project, Dr. Rowley returned to the University of Chicago to continue her research. In the early 1970s, she brought a new perspective to the understanding of cancer by demonstrating that the abnormal chromosome implicated in certain types of leukemia was also involved in a translocation, in some cases. By 1990, over seventy chromosomal translocations had been identified across different types of cancer. Today, Dr. Rowley continues her research at the University of Chicago. She holds the position of the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor, and serves as the Interim Deputy Dean for Science. In 1998, Dr. Janet Rowley was awarded the prestigious Lasker Award for her work on translocation and cancer.