Three Scientists Win Nobel Prize in Medicine

An American and two British researchers won the 2001 Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for their discoveries in cell development that are expected to lead to new cancer treatments. 

Leland H. Hartwell, 61, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, R. Timothy Hunt, 58, of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in Hertfordshire, England, and Paul M. Nurse, 52, of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London were cited for research that sheds light on how cancer cells develop.

These findings are about to be ``applied to tumor diagnostics ... and may in the long term also open new principles for cancer therapy,'' the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute said in its citation.

The winners will share the prize worth $943,000.

The scientists were honored for discovering key regulators of the cell cycle, which is the process cells go through to divide. Cells must grow, duplicate their chromosomes — the tiny DNA segments that contain genes — and divide the chromosomes to be distributed precisely to the new cells that arise from the division.

Defects in the control of this process can lead to cancer.

The winners are selected from nominations received from professors, past laureates and other specialists from around the world.

The final choice for physiology or medicine was made in a morning vote Monday by the 50 professors at Stockholm's prestigious Karolinska Institute who make up the Nobel Assembly. The winner was then informed and the decision made public.

The physics prize is to be announced Tuesday, the prizes in chemistry and economics on Wednesday, and the peace prize on Friday. Because the nomination period ended Feb. 1, this year's peace prize is very unlikely to reflect developments since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.

In keeping with tradition, the date for the literature prize will be revealed only two days beforehand, although it is usually a Thursday in October.

The awards are then handed out Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896. The laureates arrive to receive gold medals, diplomas and checks in the presence of the king of each country, followed by banquets laden with pageantry.

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was established separately in 1968 by the Swedish central bank but is grouped with the other awards.

To mark the centennial this year, all living laureates have been invited to the ceremonies and related seminars, with some 150 expected in Stockholm and 30 in Oslo, including former South African President Nelson Mandela and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The medicine prize, which was first received by Emil Adolf von Behring of Germany for his discovery of a diphtheria vaccination, was to be given to ``the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine,'' according to the will.

Last year's winners were Arvid Carlsson of Sweden and Americans Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel for research on how brain cells transmit signals to each other, thus increasing understanding on how the brain functions and how neurological and psychiatric disorders may be better treated.