Vogt’s discovery of cancer-causing genes launched new research era
One of cancer research’s pioneers visited The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota today to share his work and learn about what scientists here are investigating in the fight against the disease.
Dr. Peter Vogt, well known for his groundbreaking research on the genetic causes of cancer, gave a presentation titled, “The PI3K Pathway as a Cancer Target,” this afternoon as a special guest of The Hormel Institute’s Executive Director Dr. Zigang Dong. He also heard presentations from some of The Hormel Institute’s cancer researchers.
Vogt serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., where he also is a professor in the Department of Molecular & Experimental Medicine. The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world’s largest, private, nonprofit research organizations that is one of the leaders in basic biomedical science.
A preeminent scientist, Vogt is highly regarded for his breakthrough research on cancer-causing viruses that helped establish the field of cancer genetics.
In 1959, Vogt moved from Germany to the United States, where he began postdoctoral training at the University of California in Berkeley. During those studies in the laboratory of Dr. Harry Rubin, Vogt started work on a virus that induces cancer. Rubin had just developed a method to study cancer in cell culture. This method became the starting point for much of the scientific developments that have shaped cancer research today.
In the late 1960s, Vogt discovered mutants in cancer viruses that proved they carry a single cancer-causing gene. Drs. Michael Bishop and Harold Varmus at the University of California at San Francisco used these mutants to show that humans carry these cancer genes in an inactive form. Today, it is known that human cancer essentially involves the body’s activation of these oncogenes.
Current understanding of cancer as a disease of genes is based on these discoveries. Humans and animals carry many different cancer genes, and Vogt discovered several that play critical roles in cancer during his studies with cancer viruses. His most recent discovery is a protein called PI 3-kinase that regulates numerous body functions. This protein often is mutated in common cancers; it increases its activity and then drives tumor development. PI 3-kinase now is considered one of the most-promising cancer targets.
The ultimate goal of Vogt’s work long has been to apply the genetic knowledge of cancer toward developing new therapies effective in treating the disease.
In 2013, Vogt, who was inducted in 1980 to the National Academy of Sciences, received the American Association for Cancer Research’s Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award that recognizes an individual scientist of international renown who has made a major scientific discovery in basic or translational cancer research. He also has received numerous other distinguished awards, including the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine (1985), the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Award (1987), the ICN International Prize in Virology (1989), the Bristol Myers Award (1989), the Paul-Ehrlich and Ludwig-Darmstaedter Prize (1988), the Charles S. Mott Prize (1991) and the Albert Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research (2010).
The Hormel Institute
Started in 1942 by Jay C. Hormel, The Hormel Institute is comprised of a group of highly successful medical scientists who are focused on determining the basic molecular mechanisms of cancer development to develop new anti-cancer agents. This summer, The Hormel Institute is starting a major expansion to about double its size by adding 20 state-of-the-art laboratories and better space for its International Center of Research Technology. Up to 125 new faculty and staff jobs will be added in the coming years, growing The Hormel Institute to about 250 employees overall.