Following a more-than-2-year battle with gastric cancer, Dr. Anita Roberts died on May 26. Dr. Roberts, former chief of the Laboratory of Cell Regulation and Carcinogenesis in the NCI Center for Cancer Research (CCR), was 64 years old.
Dr. Roberts is remembered by colleagues as a warm person, dedicated to her work and her co-workers. Her published work is among the top 50 most-cited research papers and she is the second most-cited female scientist in the world. Throughout her career, Dr. Roberts received numerous awards, the most recent of which include the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology's (FASEB) Award for Excellence in Science and the Susan G. Komen Foundation's Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction, both of which she received in 2005.
In collaboration with Dr. Michael Sporn, now at Dartmouth University Medical School, Dr. Roberts conducted seminal research into the essential biological role of the protein TGF-β in areas such as immune function and wound healing, and in diseases like cancer.
"Anita was a remarkable researcher and colleague who has left an indelible scientific legacy," said NCI Deputy Director and Deputy Director for Translational and Clinical Sciences Dr. John Niederhuber.
As those who worked closely with her attest, Dr. Roberts was more than just an eminent scientist.
"She was an extraordinary mentor who created a uniquely nurturing environment in her laboratory," said CCR Director Dr. Robert Wiltrout. In 2004, Dr. Roberts received the NIH Mentor Award.
Dr. Roberts - who catalogued her life over the last 2 years on a blog, www.anitaroberts.net/blog/ - continued to participate in scientific conferences throughout what was a long and difficult treatment. She delivered her award lecture at the FASEB annual meeting in San Diego in April 2005 and also participated in a conference on TGF-β and cancer in Dallas in February 2006.
She is survived by her husband, Robert, two children, Greg and Karl, and five grandchildren.