Michael Potter | Cancer researcher, 89

Posted: June 25, 2013

Michael Potter, 89, a scientist at the National Cancer Institute whose research led to greater understanding of tumors and the immune system and who won the prestigious Lasker Award for medical research, died Tuesday at his home in Bethesda, Md. He had acute myeloid leukemia, said his daughter, Melissa Adde Magrath.

Dr. Potter worked for more than 50 years at the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. He was a principal investigator in NCI's Laboratory of Cell Biology and, for more than 20 years, was chief of the Laboratory of Genetics.

At its most basic level, Dr. Potter's research focused on plasma cells, or a form of white blood cells that produce antibodies. In the 1950s, while studying laboratory mice, he learned that mineral oil injected in the bodies of the mice could produce plasma cell tumors, or plasmacytomas.

He then studied the early stages of tumor development and the genetic factors contributing to the susceptibility and resistance to the growth of tumors. He was particularly interested in the development of antibodies, or blood proteins that battle disease within the body. Each of the plasma tumors, or plasmacytomas, produced a different antibody molecule.

"It was just game-changing research at that time," Beverly Mock, who was Dr. Potter's successor at NCI's genetics laboratory, said Saturday. - Washington Post

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