The highest honor given by the Society for In Vitro Biology is the Lifetime Achievement Award. It is presented to scientists who are considered pioneers or highly influential researchers to the science and art of cell culture. They are men and women who have devoted their careers to exemplary research and/or teaching. The recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award are selected by vote of the Board of Directors from a list of nominations recommended by the Awards Committee. The Society for In Vitro Biology honored Dr. Eugene Elmore and Dr. Yvonne Reid with SIVB Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 2016 World Congress on In Vitro Biology in San Diego, CA. This issue highlights Dr. Eugene Elmore’s career. Dr. Yvonne Reid’s career was highlighted in the previous issue of the In Vitro Report.
The Society for In Vitro Biology presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Eugene Elmore at our 2016 World Congress on In Vitro Biology. Gene has been an active and contributing member of the TCA/SIVB since 1984. During that time, he has been a significant contributor to the scientific programs, teaching/course programs and development of the society. He has served as SIVB President (2014-2016), President Elect, Program Chair (1997), Chair-cellular toxicology committee and frequent member of the annual meeting program committee. He is a Society Fellow and recipient of numerous service awards. He is also the past president of the SIVB.
Gene took all three of his degrees at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He completed his BA in Zoology (1967), Masters in Genetics (1978) and Ph.D. in Genetics (1982). He has spent his professional life in both the private and public (educational) sectors and all focused on research questions linked with cell biology in vitro. Employed at ManTech Environmental (a contract research organization)(1980-1991), he worked in the area of in vitro genetic toxicology and in vitro prediction of teratogenic activity. It was also during this time at ManTech that he developed his interest in chemical-based prevention of neoplastic transformation (termed chemoprevention) and was the Principal Investigator on several major grants utilizing in vitro research models. In 1992, Gene moved from North Carolina to Irvine, California where he became the Scientific Director of the National Institute for the Advancement of In Vitro Sciences, a non-profit organization (1992-1994). Concurrently, he joined the research faculty of the University of California, Irvine (Department of Medicine, 1992-1997). This began his decades-long collaboration with Professor J. Leslie Redpath. In 1997, that collaboration moved to the Department of Radiation Oncology where Gene remained until his retirement in 2014. During this period, his research focused on radiation-induced cell transformation and particularly the role of low-dose radiation. It had been the dogma, particularly regulatory dogma, that there was no “no-effect” [threshold] dose of radiation-induced transformation. This dogma impacted all facets of radiation use from medical x-ray procedures to occupational exposures in many industries. His research was instrumental in demonstrating the threshold for radiation transformation and the potential for low-dose radiation to prevent cell transformation.
To better illustrate Gene’s many scientific contributions, I have selected a paper from the area of chemical chemoprevention and one from the low-dose radiation work. The first paper deals with the development of an in vitro approach to screening potential chemopreventive agents. Melanoma is the most devastating of the skin cancers and is associated with UV exposure. In his paper, “Development and characterization of a human cell assay for screening agents for melanoma prevention”(1), he selected primary melanocytes and melanomas with increasing degrees of transformed phenotype to identify surface markers associated with progression from the less invasive to more invasive phonotype. UVB light was used to upregulate the markers of interest and the ability of chemopreventive agent to suppress this upregulation, at clinically relevant concentrations, was used as the endpoint measure. The radial growth-phase-like melanoma cells (those in the early/pre-invasive state) proved to be the most responsive to chemopreventive agents. This combination of the specific melanoma cell line (WM3211) and endpoint measures provided an in vitro test system for screening new agents. The second paper, “Low doses of very low-dose-rate low-LET radiation suppress radiation-induced neoplastic transformation in vitro and induce an adaptive response” (2), examined the potential for an adaptive response using a hybrid cell line (HeLa x skin fibroblast). To evaluate the transformation-induction potential of low-dose radiation, irradiated and control cells were carried for up to 88 days. Irradiated cells were irradiated continuously in the incubators using an 125I dosing device external to the flasks. Total radiation was 216 mGy and no increase in transformation frequency was observed from this exposure. However, when these treated and control cultures were irradiated acutely with 3 Gy (137Cs ɤ rays), the untreated controls showed a transformation frequency of 32.95 per 105 surviving cells while the pre-irradiated cells showed a rate half that much (17.08 per 105 surviving cells). Transformation frequency was based on clonal growth of transformed colonies which requires low seeding density but high numbers of cells (picture maintaining 96 T-75 flasks/treatment group for three weeks with refeeding). This paper and several others from Gene’s work have brought a reexamination of the previous dogma on induction of neoplastic change by low dose irradiation. There is now a growing consensus that there is a threshold effect for radiation exposure.
Gene has also been an invited expert in the areas of development and validation of in vitro assays for regulatory purposes. He served on the Interagency Committee of the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) Scientific Advisory Committee on Toxicological Methods (which reviewed ICCVAM assessments and conclusions on in vitro methods), and several of their test method peer review panels. He serves as the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) (which funded this award) which provides scholarship grants to graduate students. Earlier this year, he was invited as an outside expert by the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) to help develop “Guidance on the implementation of in vitro methods within a GLP environment to support regulatory human safety assessment of chemicals” as part of an OECD effort.
Submitted by John Harbell