The National Foundation for Cancer Research honors the life of Dr. Zena Werb, who passed on June 16th, 2020. A world-renowned cell biologist, Dr. Werb was professor and vice-chair in the Department of Anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and associate director for basic science at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. She was a premier, innovative cancer researcher and expert on the role of the extracellular environment (matrix) in normal function and in the development of cancer, with much of her focus on breast cancer. She found that the enzymes, metalloproteinases (MMPs), regulate a variety of biological processes and discovered that the MMPs are expressed in cancer and that their overproduction can promote tumor formation and drive malignancy. Her research also helped elucidate the link between inflammation and cancer. NFCR was honored for her service on our Szent-Györgyi Prize Selection Committee, responsible for the selection of the annual recipient of NFCR’s Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research.
Dr. Zena Werb was an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was the recipient of numerous accolades during her scientific career which included honors for her dedicated mentorship of young scientists and enthusiastic advocacy for women in science. Zena Werb will be missed for her outstanding contributions to cancer research and the academic community.