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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 61  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 468-469
Remembering the genius on her birth anniversary: Professor Janet Davidson Rowley, MD (05.04.1925-17.12.2013)

Department of Hematology (Cytogenetics), Medanta, The Medicity, Gurgaon, Haryana, India

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Date of Web Publication13-Jul-2018

How to cite this article:
Yadav AK. Remembering the genius on her birth anniversary: Professor Janet Davidson Rowley, MD (05.04.1925-17.12.2013). Indian J Pathol Microbiol 2018;61:468-9

How to cite this URL:
Yadav AK. Remembering the genius on her birth anniversary: Professor Janet Davidson Rowley, MD (05.04.1925-17.12.2013). Indian J Pathol Microbiol [serial online] 2018 [cited 2021 Dec 1];61:468-9. Available from: https://www.ijpmonline.org/text.asp?2018/61/3/468/236607

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Janet Davidson Rowley, MD, a leading pioneer in cancer cytogenetics research, was born on 5th April 1925. After completing her graduation from medical school, she married a fellow medical student Donald Rowley, M.D. Dr Rowley was a humble human being and shows motherly instinct towards all her colleagues and staff. Dr Rowley is deeply appreciated in the world of science for her immense contribution in the field of cancer cytogenetics. Her research findings have paved the path for early detection and cure of this deadly disease all over the world. It is unfortunate that the genius Late professor Dr. Rowley (Mother of Cancer Cytogenetic discoveries), who saved many lives irrespective of age, religion, etc., in all continents from cancer, died at her home due to ovarian cancer on 17th December, 2013. It is truly unbelievable that good people like her, who worked hard their whole life to provide respite to people suffering from cancer, died due to this deadly disease. She was very optimistic for science, which is seen by her tissue donation to science due to which many lives have been saved.

Awards and honors

Dr. Rowley was the co-recipient of the Allen award in 1991. She received many accolades during her life for her contribution towards science. She was the recipient of The Laskar award (1980), the national medal for science in 1998 (it is highest scientific award in USA), the Presidential medal for freedom in 2009, among others. She was the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of the journal “Genes, Chromosome and Cancer” for 25 years.

Academic Credentials/Professional

She started the chromosome search/identification in the pre-banding era which was a really difficult task. But she overcame all technical difficulties and identified translocation. She found that, among the chromosome 8 and 21, chromosome 8 is smaller and chromosome 21 is long, apparently reciprocal translocation, now we call it translocation (8;21)(q22;q22). Dr Rowley was the first cancer researcher who observed this. After seeing this, she searched for more patients with similar features, and after a literature search, she found that it was a novel finding in the scientific community of cancer cytogenetics research. Later on, she noticed that patients with CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia) had different type of chromosomal translocation (exchange), which is nowadays called t (9;22)(q34;q11.2). Her work was of significant importance to support the idea that cytogenetic changes are the drivers for leukemogenesis. After few years, Dr. Rowley and her colleagues noticed a third consistent chromosome translocation, t(15;17)(q24.1;q21), which causes APML. On seeing her novel discoveries/findings scientists around the world followed her, great emphasis was laid down on the search of chromosome alteration in cancer studies. Thus, she opened the door in the field of cancer cytogenetics to explore hidden findings.

Later on, many translocations were identified. These scientific findings by her can be seen by more than 500 publications on her name in scientific journals. She held many positions at the University of Chicago and has many awards by her name.

She attended many conferences and delivered lectures all over the world.

I used to listen her name very frequently after the case of CML, and then I started reading about her with great enthusiasm. I was very keen and optimistic about my respected teacher/professor whose name I heard many times in books or from pathologists in my lab. Then I couldn't control myself and thought to write an e-mail to her to clear my few doubts in one article. To my utmost surprise she replied promptly. On 15th December 2013, I once again wrote to her to clear my query about a research article published by her. I received a prompt reply this time also, but after two days, I came to know about her sudden demise. For me it was very shocking and heart broking. I kept on analyzing that how a person who is in her last stage of cancer with so many difficulties still reply to my emails and clear my doubts patiently. She taught me a very valuable lesson of life to be humble in life, irrespective of any situation. At the same time, she inspires us to do hard work without thinking of the result.

I must say that I am fortunate enough to have a conversation with such a great scientist. It is truly inspiring for me. She is missed not only by her family but also by University of Chicago, her friends, neighbors, colleagues, coworkers, and people who are far in different countries, like me. Even I would say that she will be missed by every person who is familiar with cancer, and countless people whose lives were saved by her discovery. Above all, by every person working in leukemia cytogenetics, especially t(9;22), because it is one who ranked as one of the most successful cancer medicine stories of the past century.

We all should be careful, scientific, and have astute observations like her during chromosome analysis so that we do not miss translocations. Believe in yourself. We all should contribute our effort in science (especially cancer cytogenetics). It is worth for society on this earth.

Correspondence Address:
Anil Kumar Yadav
Department of Hematology (Cytogenetics), Medanta, The Medicity, Gurgaon, Haryana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/IJPM.IJPM_394_18

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