The Princess Margaret’s Dr. John Dick, 2017 Keio Medical Science Prize Laureate


Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s Dr. John Dick is one of this year’s Keio Medical Science Prize Laureates.
The Keio Medical Science Prize gives recognition to the outstanding and creative achievements of researchers in the fields of medicine and life sciences, in particular those contributing to scientific developments in medicine. It aims to promote worldwide advances in medicine and life sciences, to encourage the expansion of researcher networks throughout the world, and to contribute to the well-being of humankind.
The award selection committee says “Professor Dick 's contribution is immeasurable, as he gave rise to the idea that cancer stem cells must be destroyed for cancers to be eradicated.”
Dr. John Dick is the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology and Senior Scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. His major achievement in the identification of cancer stem cells was announced on Monday, September 11 in Japan.
“It is with gratitude that I accept the Keio Medical Science Prize. Science is not done in isolation and I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by wonderful colleagues in Toronto who set the highest standards for scientific thought that continuously challenged me to tackle biological challenges with rigour and clear thinking. All of our work on the biology of normal and leukemic human stem cells was the cumulative effort of many students and post-docs who contributed so much to the thinking and execution of the experimental findings. I dedicate this award to them,” says Dr. John Dick.
Keio University annually awards The Keio Medical Science Prize to recognize researchers who have made an outstanding contribution to the fields of medicine or the life sciences. It is the only prize of its kind awarded by a Japanese university, and 7 laureates of this Prize have later won the Nobel Prize.

Tissue stem cells exhibit the capacity for self-renewal and differentiation into cells of various types. These multipotent stem cells are the principal source of the cells in adult tissue. The idea that stem cells might also be present in cancer tissues, i.e., the "cancer stem cell hypothesis," was first proposed long ago, but bona fide cancer stem cells were not isolated for many years. Dr. John Dick was the first to isolate cells expressing hematopoietic stem cell surface markers from human leukemia cells, and transplant them. This provided the first evidence that human leukemia can be maintained in other organisms, and the first indication that stem cells are present and active in leukemia. Beginning with these findings, the field of cancer stem cell research has continued to advance and it has since become clear that cancer stem cells play roles in solid tumors as well. Cancer stem cells are more resistant to therapeutic interventions than normal cancer cells, and serve as source cells in cancer recurrence and metastasis.
Congratulations Dr. John Dick!