The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society would like to express our sincerest condolences to the Rowley family on the passing of Dr. Janet Rowley – a true pioneer in cancer genetics research. She was 88.
Rowley's early work helped to establish that cancer is a genetic disease, demonstrating that mutations in critical genes lead to specific forms of leukemia and lymphoma. Her discoveries helped lay the groundwork for the development of targeted and individualized therapy for patients with cancer. In 1973, Dr. Rowley showed that the Philadelphia Chromosome associated with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) was an abnormal translocation of two chromosomes. Her discovery was a key step in the eventual discovery of the first targeted therapy (Gleevec®) that transformed the treatment of CML. This also lead to second and third generation agents, Tasigna®, Sprycel®, and most recently, Iglusig®, for the treatment of CML that are resistant or intolerant of Gleevec®. Dr. Rowley’s discovery continues to have immediate impact to this day, as these agents have demonstrated utility in children and adults with Philadelphia Chromosome-positive acute leukemia (ALL) as well as potentially in ALL patients who have a genetic signature similar to that found in Philadelphia Chromosome-positive patients.
Rowley served as a member of LLS’s National Medical and Scientific Affairs Committee for many years. In addition, she was a recipient of LLS’s Return of the Child Award that recognizes and honors an individual who has made a major and lasting scientific or humanitarian contribution to the better understanding, management or treatment of blood cancers.
Most importantly, her research led to a better understanding of blood cancers and improved treatments for blood cancer patients. She was a truly remarkable researcher, role model for an entire generation of scientists, and will be sorely missed.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Chicago)