Emmanuel Farber Dead at 95, First to Describe Carcinogenesis

Pathologist’s research led to 1964 surgeon general’s report on the dangers of smoking and tobacco use

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ONE OF THE PATHOLOGY PROFESSION’S MOST RESPECTED cancer researchers died last month. On August 3, Emmanuel Farber, M.D., passed away. He was 95 years old.

Farber was noted for his work in furthering the understanding of chemical carcinogenesis. His studies in experimental pathology revealed that chemical carcinogens can bind to nucleic acids, which could then generate specific DNA adducts. This process can be the start of carcinogenesis.

With further research, Farber proved his theory. He demonstrated that, by treating the liver with chemicals in a step-by-step process, cancer could be induced.

Because of this work, he served on the first Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health during the years 1961 to 1964. In 1964, this committee played a key role in the issuance of the surgeon general’s report that warned the public of the dangers of smoking and tobacco-related disease.

Born in Toronto, Canada, in 1918, Farber earned his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1942. He later got a doctorate in chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley.

In a long career, he held positions, including chair of pathology, at such institutions as Tulane University, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and the Fels Research Institute of Temple University. In 1975, he returned to the University of Toronto to serve as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pathology.

The list of medical associations, scientific societies, and advisory councils to which he belonged and often chaired is lengthy. In this country, it included the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences.

It is worth noting that Emmanuel Farber, M.D., was not associated with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of Boston, Massachusetts. That  institution was founded in 1947 by Sidney Farber, M.D., a pediatric pathologist who was not related.

Emmanuel Farber emphasized carcinogenesis must be understood in the context of the cellular, metabolic, molecular, and genetic changes that occur during the process.

Many honors came to Farber, such as the Rous-Whipple Award of the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) in 1982. He received the Parke- Davis Award in Experimental Pathology and the Samuel R. Noble Foundation Award. Then, in 1984, Farber was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. The next year, in 1985, he was elected as an honorary member of the Society of Toxicologic Pathologists.

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