1982 Albert Lasker Basic and Clinical Medical Research Award winners
Left to right: J. Michael Bishop, Elizabeth Neufeld, Robert Gallo, Roscoe Brady, Michael DeBakey, Raymond Erikson, Harold Varmus, Hidesaburo Hanafusa

In 1982, five scientists — J. Michael Bishop, Raymond Erikson, Hidesaburo Hanafusa, Harold Varmus, and Robert Gallo — received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for work that revolutionized our understanding of the processes that turn normal cells into cancer cells. Below is an excerpt from Bishop's acceptance speech, on the challenges of cancer research and the need for citizen support of scientific inquiry.

Will we be able to parlay these revelations into a strategy for the control of cancer? The issue remains in deep doubt. The road ahead seems long and daunting. And the outcome is not solely in the hands of scientists. Cancer research is a public endeavor — indeed, one of the boldest endeavors our society has attempted. No one understands this better than our hostess today, Mrs. Albert Lasker, to whose generosity and hospitality we are all indebted. I take this, my first opportunity, to thank her for her remarkable and untiring efforts in the quest for human welfare.

We need a thousand giants like her. Those of us who labor in cancer research look to our fellow citizens for mandate and support. And these are anxious times for biomedical research. The dollar now dictates what we can and cannot do to an extent that is damaging and demoralizing. We have no product to sell, now or for the foreseeable future. What we have is the hope that all of us together will enable humankind by seeing this great and hopeful adventure through to its end. We began this adventure together as a nation — in an act of altruism unprecedented in the annals of government. Let us finish it together as citizens rather than mercantilists.

 

Read next:
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Q&A with David Hill, winner of 2015 Lasker Essay Contest