The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1975
Born: 22 February 1914, Catanzaro, Italy
Died: 19 February 2012, La Jolla, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratory, London, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: “for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell”
Prize share: 1/3
In 1910, Peyton Rous demonstrated that certain viruses can cause cancer, although it would be some time before the processes behind this were understood. Renato Dulbecco and his colleagues proved during the 1950s that genetic material from the virus is incorporated into the host organism's genes. The genes of the infected cells, which were partly constructed by the virus, could cause abnormal growth within the organism. Dulbecco's studies concentrated on tumor viruses with DNA as the genetic material, but ultimately also proved to be fundamental to the discovery related to viruses with RNA as the genetic material.