Sidney Farber Professor of Medicine, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Dr. Kaelin’s laboratory studies tumor suppressor genes and the normal functions of the proteins they encode. The long-term goal of this work is to lay the foundation for the development of the new anticancer therapies based on the functions of specific tumor suppressor proteins. For example, this work may open up the possibility of developing a drug that mimics the behavior of a certain tumor suppressor protein or of designing strategies for killing only those cells in which a particular tumor suppressor protein has been inactivated, thus sparing normal cells. His work on oxygen sensing pathways provided a rationale for the successful testing of VEGF inhibitors in kidney cancer and for a new class of drugs for treating anemia. The lab currently concentrates on the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL), the isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and 2 (IDH1 and IDH2) oncoproteins, and the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein (pRB).
Dr. Kaelin earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and math from Duke University, Durham, NC followed by an MD, also from Duke. He completed his residency in internal medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD, followed by a fellowship in medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), Boston, MA. He was a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Livingston, MD, where he began his studies of tumor suppressor proteins. He became an independent investigator at DFCI in 1992, joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1998, and became a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA in 2002.
Dr. Kaelin has received numerous awards, including the Duke University School of Medicine Distinguished Alumnus Award; the James S. McDonnell Scholar Award; the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, America Association for Cancer Research; the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award; the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award, American Society of Clinical Investigation; the Canada Gairdner International Award; the Colin Thomson Medal; Steven C. Beering Award, Indiana University School of Medicine; Science of Oncology Award, American Society of Clinical Oncology; the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award; the Helis Award; the Association of American Cancer Institute Distinguished Scientist Award; the Breast Cancer Research Foundation Jill Rose Award for Scientific Excellence; the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Award; the American College of Physicians Harriet P. Dustan Award for Science as Related to Medicine; and the Massry Prize. In 2019, The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to William G. Kaelin, Jr., Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.
Dr. Kaelin's honors include being elected to the the National Academy of Arts and Science, the American College of Physicians, and the National Academy of Medicine. In 2018, he became the Sidney Farber Professor of Medicine at DFCI and Harvard Medical School.