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Vol. LXI, No. 9
May 1, 2009

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Dr. Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr.

Fraumeni Honored for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research

Dr. Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., recognized for his research contributions in understanding the causes and prevention of cancer, has received the American Association for Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research. For more than 30 years, he has led one of the premier cancer epidemiology groups in the world at the National Cancer Institute and has helped mentor and train the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists.

Fraumeni is best known for the syndrome that bears his name, along with that of his colleague Dr. Frederick P. Li. Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) is a rare, inherited disorder that predisposes young people to certain cancers including breast cancer, sarcomas and a variety of other tumors. The search for genetic underpinnings of the familial syndrome eventually led to collaborative studies in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Friend at Harvard, where the team discovered germline mutations in the p53 tumor suppressor gene. The findings were especially dramatic since p53 mutations were previously found in the tumor tissue of a substantial proportion of cancer patients.

“Perhaps as important to me as the discovery and characterization of LFS,” said Fraumeni, “is the U.S. Cancer Mortality Atlas project.” By developing computer-generated and color-coded maps of cancer mortality at the county level, it was possible to visualize high-risk areas where Fraumeni and his colleagues conducted epidemiologic studies that identified a number of previously unrecognized carcinogenic hazards, including:

  • oral cancer associated with smokeless tobacco use in the rural South

  • lung cancer with shipyard asbestos exposures along coastal areas and with inhaled arsenic in smelter workers and residents of surrounding communities

  • lymphoma with agricultural herbicides in farming communities

  • nasal cancer with work in the furniture industry in the Southeast

  • bladder cancer with certain occupational exposures and with high levels of arsenic in drinking water in the Northeast.

These studies have often led to cancer control measures such as educational campaigns and labeling policies for smokeless tobacco and regulatory limits for arsenic exposure. Impressed with these results, 35 other countries developed similar geographic atlases and strategies.

The AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was established in 2004 to honor an individual who has made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research. “I am delighted to receive this award, particularly as it comes from the world’s leading professional society devoted to cancer research,” Fraumeni said. “It has been gratifying to see epidemiology steadily move into the mainstream of AACR, including its meetings and publications.”

Dr. Leepo Yu

NIAMS Symposium Honors Yu

Dr. Leepo Yu, a research physicist in the Laboratory of Muscle Biology, NIAMS, was recently honored for her career at NIH. In recognition of her contributions to the field of muscle research, NIAMS hosted a symposium in her honor titled, “Structural Basis of Muscle Contraction.” NIAMS director Dr. Stephen Katz, scientific director Dr. John O’Shea, and LMB chief Dr. Kuan Wang presided over the event, where leaders in the field of muscle biology presented their research.

Yu has 36 years of experience at NIH, studying structural biology of muscle tissue. She completed her undergraduate degree at Brown University and her doctoral studies in physics at the University of Maryland. In her early years here, Yu served under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Podolsky and was instrumental in visualizing molecular structure of muscle involved in contraction. She also played a critical role in characterizing a new intermediate state in the force generation of muscle. Lately, her focus has turned to establishing a link between molecular processes occurring in intact muscle cells and the atomic structures of contractile proteins.

“Leepo epitomizes the ‘doing big science with a small team’ approach at NIH intramural programs,” said Wang. “She led one of a handful of teams in the world that looks closely at how the tiny molecular motors move about in live muscles by using synchrotron X-ray.”

More information about the symposium, including a list of presenters, is available at

Chepelinsky Says Farewell to NEI  

Dr. Ana Chepelinsky
After 33 years at NIH and 26 years with the National Eye Institute, Dr. Ana Chepelinsky has retired. She was chief of the regulation of gene expression section in the Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology for 11 years.

“I’ll always remember and appreciate Ana’s enthusiasm and curiosity during our many years together in the lab,” said former lab chief Dr. Joram Piatigorsky. “She made numerous scientific contributions that were a credit to her and to the laboratory.”

Born in Argentina, Chepelinsky earned her Ph.D. from Buenos Aires University in 1970. She completed her postdoctoral training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in 1973 she joined the Institute for Biochemical Research in Buenos Aires. She came to NIH in the late 1970s as a visiting scientist at NCI and NIAMDD.

Since 2006, Chepelinsky has served as intramural career development advisor and workforce development manager. In this capacity, she coordinated the NEI action plan for recruiting underrepresented minorities. “As NEI workforce development manager, I was particularly impressed with Ana’s recruitment and mentoring efforts for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities program,” said Dave Whitmer, NEI executive officer.

While on detail from NEI from 2004 to 2006, Chepelinsky served as program director for the Americas and the Caribbean at the Fogarty International Center’s Division of International Relations. Throughout her career, she served on several NIH committees including the Diversity Council and as NEI representative on the NIH woman scientist advisors committee.

Chepelinsky played a significant role in training and mentoring postdoctoral fellows and other young scientists from all over the world. Dr. Shawn Drew, one of her students, presented her a plaque in June 1993 that read, “In May of 1991, I stepped into your lab and you stepped into my heart. You are the first and only person who ever told me two life-changing things: one, that I can achieve my Ph.D., and two, that I will be a great scientist.” Drew obtained her Ph.D. in 1998 and says, “I’m now in a position to do [for others] what Ana did for me.”

In retirement, Chepelinsky plans to continue mentoring women and underrepresented minorities to encourage them to advance in their science careers. She also loves to read and travel and enjoys nature and the outdoors, including whitewater rafting and snorkeling. She will also have more time to pursue her artistic interests, mainly in painting and ceramics. NIHRecord Icon

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