1925/04/05 – 2013/12/17
Dr. Janet Rowley, the MD who demonstrated to the world that certain cancers had a genetic origin has died at 88 after contracting ovarian cancer.
Using, what now appear primitive staining techniques and imaging technologies, she peered through microscopes for years at variously stained samples. The staining techniques that she picked up in Oxford allowed her, on return to Chicago, to see that for a type of Leukemia, certain genes that belonged in one chromosome were in fact in another chromosome and vice versa i.e. that they were translocated.She stained and studied an array of chromosomes from patients with blood cancers, photographing the resulting images. Back in Chicago, she cut the photos into tiny fragments, with each fragment showing a chromosome in isolation — “paper dolls,” her children called them.One day in 1972, Dr. Rowley cut up a sheaf of photos from a patient with acute myeloid leukemia, known as A.M.L. She laid the fragments out, chromosome by chromosome, on her dining table and ordered the children not to sneeze.Aligned, the photos told a story of mutation. As Dr. Rowley noticed, two chromosomes had inappropriately swapped genetic material: a piece of chromosome 8 was now on chromosome 21, and vice versa. Examining photos from other A.M.L. patients, she saw that nearly every set showed the identical genetic swap.More here: http://goo.gl/VxntpD