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Retired Fox Chase Cancer Center Scientist Irwin Rose Shares 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover of Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Irwin 'Ernie' Rose, Ph.D.

Irwin 'Ernie' Rose, Ph.D.


PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 6, 2004) -- Irwin A. "Ernie" Rose, PhD, formerly of Abington, Pennsylvania, will share the 2004 Nobel Prize in chemistry with two Israeli colleagues, Aaron Ciechanover, PhD, and Avram Hershko, PhD, for a series of epoch-making biochemical studies on the breakdown of proteins within cells. Starting in the late 1970s, much of their joint work was done during a series of sabbatical leaves that Hershko and Ciechanover spent as visiting scientists in Rose's laboratory at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Hershko and Ciechanover are both scientists at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

The focus of the Nobel Prize-winning research is the regulatory protein ubiquitin-so named because it is ubiquitous in the cells of animals and plants. Ubiquitin serves as each cell's internal garbage disposal, using an enzyme system to target unwanted proteins for breakdown and recycling once their specific task within the cell is done.

Along with recycling products the cell no longer needs, ubiquitin helps regulate the important proteins that control cell reproduction. At precise points in the cell cycle, central proteins called cyclins must be destroyed for normal cell division to occur. The process, called ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis, also plays a key role in DNA repair and transcription, protein quality control and immune response.

Understanding the mechanisms for controlling and processing cell proteins allows researchers to identify mistakes in the process that may lead to disease. For example, many cancers stem from genetic changes that result in the production of certain proteins at the wrong time or in excessive quantities. Defects in proteolysis are associated with many human diseases, including various cancers and cystic fibrosis.

Dr. Rose, circa 1990, in his Fox Chase Cancer Center office

Dr. Rose, circa 1990, in his Fox Chase Cancer Center office

The ubiquitin system has become a target for drug development, either to prevent destruction of critical proteins or to destroy unwanted ones. One drug is in clinical trials for the treatment of multiple myeloma, a malignancy of the immune system.

A senior member of Fox Chase Cancer Center's division of basic science since 1963, Rose was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1979. He retired from Fox Chase in 1995. In 1997, he accepted a special appointment as emeritus researcher at the University of California at Irvine, where he continues to have research responsibilities. Before joining Fox Chase, he served on the faculty
of Yale Medical School's department of biochemistry from 1954 to 1963.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on July 16, 1926, Rose grew up in Spokane, Wash. He studied at Washington State College and then served in the U.S. Navy as a radio technician near the end of World War II. He completed his undergraduate degree under the G.I. Bill of Rights in 1949 at the University of Chicago and went on to earn his Ph.D. in biochemistry there. Prior to his appointment at Yale, he held one-year postdoctoral fellowships in the department of medicine at what is now Case-Western Reserve University in Cleveland and in the department of pharmacology at New York University.

Rose's wife of 49 years, biochemist Zelda Budenstein Rose, PhD, comes from the Philadelphia area. She earned her Ph.D. at Yale in 1955 and the couple married that same year. They have a daughter and three sons, two of them twins. During her husband's time at Yale, Zelda Rose worked as a research associate there. Later, at Fox Chase, she had her own laboratory, studying the metabolism of red blood cells.

Fox Chase Cancer Center was founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as the nation's first cancer hospital. In 1974, Fox Chase became one of the first institutions designated as a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center. Fox Chase conducts basic, clinical, population and translational research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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