The American Cancer Society has awarded Peter Jones, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, its highest honor for his contributions in fighting cancer.
The ACS, the nation’s leading voluntary health organization and largest non-governmental investor in cancer research gave Jones its Medal of Honor on Nov. 10 for his research into the epigenetics of the disease. He shares the award with Stephen Baylin of Johns Hopkins University, with whom he discovered reversible epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes and the stable epigenetic alteration of gene expression.
“It’s very unusual for this award to be shared,” said Stephen Sener, chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at USC Norris Cancer Center and former national president of the ACS. “I believe the awards committee recognizes that epigenetics and these investigators in particular have made significant advances in discovering the key mechanisms of cancer biology that will be the basis of therapeutics in the near future.”
The discovery by Jones and Baylin showed that potentially modifiable lifestyle, dietary and environmental factors play a key role in cancer risk. This has changed the way scientists think about prevention and early detection of cancer and is leading the way toward personalized cancer prevention and treatment by emphasizing that cancer is not just a genetic disease.
“This honor will not stop with Peter Jones,” said Christy Russell, director of the USC Norris Breast Center and a member of the ACS Board of Directors. “It will circulate among those he has trained and will train, to re-gather their scientific plan and move it forward in a more rapid method.”