September 7, 2012

AIDS drug AZT inventor and famed cancer scientist Jerome Horwitz dies at 93

World-renown cancer scientist Jerome Horwitz, Ph.D., emeritus professor of Internal Medicine, Division of Oncology, for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and esteemed colleague of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute (formerly the Michigan Cancer Foundation and Detroit Institute of Cancer Research), died Sept. 6. He was 93.

Dr. Horwitz's unprecedented commitment to cancer research helped synthesize a new class of drugs for the advancements of cancer treatments, including the discovery of azidothymidine in 1964 as an anti-cancer drug. AZT later became the first drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of HIV infection and AIDS. In 1967, Dr. Horwitz created dideoxycytidine, which would later became the second cancer drug approved for AIDS patients, followed by Stavudine. These drugs remain the cornerstone in the treatment of HIV and AIDS.

Dr. Horwitz wrote more than 100 articles published in peer-reviewed journals as well as several book chapters. His awards and recognitions are numerous and include Education '92 Humanitarian by the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS; Michigan Scientist of the Year (1993); Michiganian of the Year by The Detroit New (2000); Outstanding Achievement Award by the University of Michigan in recognition of the synthesis of AZT; the Distinguished Service Award by Wayne State University (1995); and Karmanos Cancer Institute's Annual Dinner honor (2005) for outstanding achievements to advance science. In addition, he was named Person of the Week by Peter Jennings; one of the 25 most intriguing people of 1986 by People magazine; he was elected to the Wayne State University Academy of Scholars in 1993 and has an endowment in his name, the Jerome R. Horwitz Fund for AIDS research.

Dr. Horwitz, a native of Detroit, received his bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry from the University of Detroit; and his doctorate degree in chemistry from the University of Michigan, followed by post-doctoral fellow training at Northwestern University and the University of Michigan. He began his tenure at the Detroit Institute of Cancer Research (now Karmanos) and Wayne State University in 1956 and retired in 2005 at the age of 86.

"We are extremely grateful for Dr. Horwitz's legacy - his outstanding service and contribution to cancer research and AIDS that continues to helped thousands of people live a long and productive life," said Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of the Karmanos Cancer Institute and interim chair of Oncology for the School of Medicine. "We extend our heartfelt sympathies to Dr. Horwitz's wife Sharon, daughters Carol Kastan and Suzy Gross, as well as other family members and friends."

Services for Dr. Horwitz will be held Sept 9 at 11:30 a.m, at the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield. The family requests donations in honor of Dr. Horwitz be directed to the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Henry Ford Hospice or B'nai Moshe.

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