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September 21, 2005

Mary Lasker and Her PrizesAn Appreciation

JAMA. 2005;294(11):1418-1419. doi:10.1001/jama.294.11.1418

I learned of my Lasker Award from a hand-written note, left on my desk one spring morning in 1982. A member of the awards jury had called from New York City in my absence, with clandestine news. My colleague Harold Varmus and I would share the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award with 3 other scientists for fundamental contributions to what was then known as the “war on cancer.”

My initial reaction was a sense of authentication. There had been considerable skepticism about the significance of the work that we were overseeing. Had we indeed uncovered a universal root of cancer? Had the case been overstated, or worse yet, had we been fooled by some treachery in our technology? The Lasker imprimatur was likely to put any remaining doubt to rest. It certainly emboldened me in the months and years to come.

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