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Canadian cancer research pioneer passes away

Columbia, SC – Cancer research lost a pioneer on Sunday, August 3, 2014, with the passing of Dr. Emmanuel Farber, a renowned pathologist who made fundamental contributions to the understanding of chemical carcinogenesis.

Dr. Farber’s studies in experimental pathology demonstrated that chemical carcinogens are capable of binding to nucleic acids, in turn generating specific DNA adducts. These early studies led to the observation that chemical carcinogenesis is a sequential process. He later proved this theory by showing that cancer could be induced through a series of step-by-step chemical treatments in the liver.


In the United States, he served on the Surgeon General’s first Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health from 1961 to 1964. Dr. Farber was an early proponent of limiting tobacco use and educating the public about smoking risks, at a time when such a position was subject to attacks from industry and even from other scientists.


Dr. Farber was born in Toronto on October 19, 1918. He obtained his medical degree from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto in 1942. After completing his residency training in pathology at the Hamilton General Hospital, he served in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and later obtained a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. His distinguished academic career began at Tulane University in New Orleans and continued at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and at the Fels Research Institute, Temple University School of Medicine, in Philadelphia. In 1975 he moved back to his native city to take the post of professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology and professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto.


He was the recipient of the Parke-Davis Award in Experimental Pathology, the Samuel R. Noble Foundation Award, the Rous-Whipple Award of the American Association of Pathologists, and the G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award of the American Association for Cancer Research. In 1984, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.


In an obituary, the AACR said that “his seminal laboratory research laid the groundwork for our understanding of human cancer. Dr. Farber will truly be missed by everyone whom he has touched with generosity as scientist, teacher, and humanitarian during his long life. His special spirit and characteristic enthusiasm about the potential of cancer science and medicine will be remembered always by his devoted friends and colleagues all over the world.”