Inspiring West Virginians Season 3
1:15 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Lew Cantley – Harvard Biochemist and Cell Biologist

Dr. Lewis Cantley opened up entirely new fields in cell biology and cancer treatment.
Dr. Lewis Cantley opened up entirely new fields in cell biology and cancer treatment.
Credit Jean Snedegar

Back in 1985 Dr. Lewis Cantley, a native of Big Chimney in Kanawha County, discovered an enzyme called PI3-Kinase.  At the time his scientific colleagues thought he couldn’t be right.  How could a chemist discover something so fundamental to biology?

But Cantley was proved right and PI3-Kinase turned out to be revolutionary in cell biology.  It explains cell growth – for example, how a child grows into an adult.  It plays a major role in how the body regulates glucose, central to our understanding of diabetes.  But PI3-Kinase also explains the growth of a variety of cancers, so is central to the development of new drug treatments targeting cancer.

“The Cantley Lab” at Harvard Medical School continues to work at the cutting edge of research into PI3K and its role in diabetes, obesity and cancer.  Cantley’s work on sugar’s link to some cancers was recently featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes.  And many of Cantley’s colleagues say he is a likely future winner of the Nobel Prize.

At the end of 2012 Lewis Cantley became the new Director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital.   In 2013 Cantley was one of the inaugural winners of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Science with an award of $3 million, it's the world's largest prize in the sciences.