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Dr. Takashi Sugimura: A giant of chemical carcinogenesis
Thursday, 2021/03/04 | 08:31:05

James E. Trosko; PNAS March 2, 2021 118 (9) e2021938118

Figure: Dr. Takashi Sugimura; Image credit: The Japan Academy.

It will be difficult to take the measure of the man, Dr. Takashi Sugimura, who died on September 6, 2020, since so much has been written about his persona and his status as an internationally recognized biochemical cancer researcher. It goes without saying that the scientific community has lost an extraordinary human being. However, at least he left us the shoulder of a giant on which to stand.


Sugimura was a graduate of the University of Tokyo, Faculty of Medicine, where he received his medical degree in 1949 and the degree of Doctor of Medical Science in 1957. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Cancer Institute, Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research, and with that sterling education and experience, Sugimura became Chief of Biochemistry Division at the Research Institute, National Cancer Center, in Tokyo in 1962. Sugimura went on to serve as President of the institute from 1984 to 1991. While at the National Cancer Center, he also had an appointment with the Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, where he worked from 1970 to 1985, advancing to the rank of Professor in recognition of his research and administrative acumen. He later served as President of Toho University from 1994 to 2000. In recognition of his international research impact, Sugimura was elected a recipient of the Japan Prize (1997), a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1987), a Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research, an Honorary Member of the Japanese Cancer Association, a Foreign Associate of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences (1994), President Emeritus of the National Cancer Center, and many other honorary awards and prizes.


It was Sugimura’s generosity that drew me to him and reminded me of my late mentor, Dr. Van Rensselaer Potter, another giant in the field of chemical carcinogenesis. I, unfortunately, never had the opportunity to experience with Sugimura those early formative years that made him such an engaging person, as well as a driven and committed scientist to help human beings with cancer. However, as Dr. Van Rensselaer Potter said, “humility with responsibility” ought to be a major driving force in scientific research. My experiences with Sugimura indicated that, before I ever met him, others had influenced this important trait in his core being. Sugimura was never motivated to seek national and international awards for the major scientific contributions that he published. His passion was to find scientific answers as to how to prevent or treat human cancers.


See more: https://www.pnas.org/content/118/9/e2021938118

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