Renato Dulbecco was born on the 22nd february 1914 at Catanzaro, Italy. He worked between Italy and USA, where he went for the first time in 1947 with Rita Levi-Montalcini. He winned Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 with David Baltimore and Howard Martin Temin
for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cellAt the conclusion of his Nobel Lecture he said:
This discussion about cancer prevention is a development of the experimental results obtained in the field of oncogenic viruses, but it is also strongly influenced by the new social conscience of many scientists. Historically, science and society have gone separate ways, although society has provided the funds for science to grow and in return science has given society all the material things it enjoys. In recent years, however, the separation between science and society has become excessive, and the consequences are felt especially by biologists. Thus, while we spend our life asking questions about the nature of cancer and ways to prevent or cure it, society merrily produces oncogenic substances and permeates the environment with them. Society does not seem prepared to accept the sacrifices required for an effective prevention of cancer. The situation is clearly unacceptable, and we biologists would like to see it corrected. We have ourselves begun to put our house in order, by banning some experiments that may contain a risk for mankind. We would like to see society take a similar attitude, abandoning selfish practices that are dangerous for society itself. We would also like to see a new co-operation of science and society for the benefit of all mankind and hope that the dominant forces in society will recognize that this is a necessity.Recently (2008) he also writes:
We are at a turning point in the study of tumor virology and cancer in general. If we wish to learn more about cancer, we must now concentrate on the cellular genome. We are back to where cancer research started, but the situation is drastically different because we have new knowledge and crucial tools, such as DNA cloning. We have two options: either to try to discover the genes important in malignancy by a piecemeal approach, or to sequence the whole genome ofa selected animal species. The former approach seems less formidable, but it will still require a vast investment of research, especially if the important genes differ in cancers of different organs and if they encode regulatory proteins. A major difficulty for conventional approaches is the heterogeneity of tumors and the lack of cultures representative of the various cell types present in a cancer. I think that it will be far more useful to begin by sequencing the cellular genome. The sequence will make it possible to prepare probes for all the genes and to classify them for their expression in various cell types at the level of individual cells by means of cytological hybridization. The classification of the genes will facilitate the identification of those involved in progression.(2)He passed away on the 19th february 2012 at La Jolla, USA.
In one generation we have come a long way in our efforts to understand cancer. The next generation can look forward to exciting new tasks that may lead to a completion of our knowledge about cancer, closing one of the most challenging chapters in biological research.(2)(1) Dulbecco, R. (1976). From the molecular biology of oncogenic DNA viruses to cancer Science, 192 (4238), 437-440 DOI: 10.1126/science.1257779 (freely available on Nobel Prize site)
(2) Dulbecco, R. (1986). A turning point in cancer research: sequencing the human genome Science, 231 (4742), 1055-1056 DOI: 10.1126/science.3945817 (pdf)