DCEG Symposium to Honor Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr.

Nancy Parrish
Portrait of Fraumeni

Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D. Photo courtesy of Dr. Fraumeni.

By Nancy Parrish, Staff Writer

On May 6, the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) will sponsor a symposium to honor 50 years of leadership from its founding director, Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., who stepped down from the position in July 2012.

The conference, entitled “Cancer Epidemiology: From Pedigrees to Populations,” will highlight critical findings in cancer epidemiology from the last 50 years, as well as opportunities for future research directions.

Long History of Leadership and Discovery

Fraumeni joined NIH in 1962 as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). After holding successive leadership positions at NCI, Fraumeni became the founding director of DCEG in 1995, at which time he was promoted within the PHS to the rank of rear admiral and assistant surgeon general.

During his tenure at National Institutes of Health (NIH), Fraumeni directed a comprehensive epidemiological and interdisciplinary research program to identify the environmental and genetic determinants of cancer and the means of prevention. Significant findings include his 1969 discovery, with fellow NCI researcher Frederick P. Li, M.D., of a rare, inherited syndrome marked by groupings of multiple cancers in children and young adults. This finding led to collaborative studies that revealed inherited mutations in the p53 suppressor gene. Today, the disorder is known as Li-Fraumeni syndrome.

Fraumeni was also a pioneer in exploring lifestyle and other environmental causes of cancer. His most recent work has focused on using genomic and other new technologies to understand how genetic and environmental factors affect the origins and progression of cancer.


A recipient of numerous prestigious awards, Fraumeni was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the Association of American Physicians, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His research contributions have been published in more than 860 scientific publications and books, including three editions of the textbook Cancer and Epidemiology and Prevention, which he co-edited with David Schottenfeld, M.D., of the University of Michigan. This textbook, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology, is “the definitive reference book for budding and experienced cancer epidemiologists alike.”

Fraumeni received his medical degree from Duke University, and a master of science in epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health. He completed his medical residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

For More Information

The symposium, to be held at the NIH Natcher Conference Center, will be conducted in three consecutive sessions: “Search for Cancer Susceptibility Genes”; “High-Risk Populations and Insights into Carcinogenic Mechanisms”; and “Global Health: Opportunities for Epidemiologic Research.” For more information or to register, visit the DCEG website.

Editor’s note: The information about Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., was drawn from a December 2012 article by Victoria A. Fisher in DCEG’s Linkage newsletter.