Anita B. Roberts (April 3, 1942 – May 26, 2006) was a molecular biologist who made pioneering observations of a protein, TGF-β, that is critical in healing wounds and bone fractures and that has a dual role in blocking or stimulating cancers.[1] She is ranked as one of the top 50 most cited biological scientists in the world.[1]

Anita B. Roberts
Roberts, anita.jpg
Born(1942-04-03)April 3, 1942
DiedMay 26, 2006(2006-05-26) (aged 64)
NationalityUnited States
Other namesAnita Bauer Roberts
Alma mater
Known forTGF-β
Scientific career


Roberts was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she grew up. In 1964, she graduated with her bachelor's degree in chemistry at Oberlin College.[2] She earned her PhD in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1968, working under Hector DeLuca on retinoid metabolism.[3] She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, a staff chemist at Aerospace Research Applications Center, and an instructor in chemistry at Indiana University Bloomington. Roberts joined the National Cancer Institute in 1976.[1] From 1995 to 2004, she served as Chief of the institute's Laboratory of Cell Regulation and Carcinogenesis, and continued her research there until her death in 2006.

In the early-1980s, Dr. Roberts and her colleagues at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland began to experiment with the protein transforming growth factor beta, commonly referred to as TGF-β.[4]

Dr. Roberts isolated the protein from bovine kidney tissue and compared her results with TGF-β taken from human blood platelets and placental tissue. Institute researchers then began a series of experiments to determine the protein's characteristics. They discovered that it helps play a central role in signaling other growth factors in the body to heal wounds and fractures speedily.[1]

TGF-β was later shown to have additional effects, including regulation of the heartbeat and the response of the eye to aging. In her continuing research, Dr. Roberts and others found that TGF-β inhibits the growth of some cancers while stimulating growth in advanced cancers, including cancers of the breast and lung.[1]

Dr. Roberts was a former president of the Wound Healing Society[5] In 2005, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[6]

Roberts herself was diagnosed with stage IV gastric cancer in March 2004. She received a degree of fame in the cancer community for her blog, detailing her daily struggles with the disease.[1]

Awards and recognitionEdit

Dr. Roberts was the recipient of several awards for her contributions to the field of science. These include:

A lecture series is named for her.[10] As of 2005, she was the 49th most-cited and is third most-cited among all women scientists.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Oransky, Ivan (July 2006). "Anita B Roberts". The Lancet. 368 (9529): 22. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68952-6.
  2. ^ "Anita B. Roberts, 64, cancer researcher". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on 2015-04-03.
  3. ^ Mishra, L; Marshall, J; Sporn, M (21 September 2006). "Obituary". Oncogene. 25 (42): 5707. doi:10.1038/sj.onc.1209900.
  4. ^ "Anita Roberts, 64, Molecular Biologist Who Studied a Key Protein, Dies". New York Times. June 2, 2006. Archived from the original on February 5, 2017.
  5. ^ "Wound Healing Society: Anita Roberts Award". Archived from the original on November 21, 2013. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  6. ^ "American Academy of Arts and Sciences Book of Members" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-12-24.
  7. ^ "Awards, Appointments, Announcements". JNCI. 97 (9): 631. 4 May 2005. doi:10.1093/jnci/97.9.631.
  8. ^ "Anita Roberts to deliver Excellence in Science lecture". Feb 15, 2005. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02.
  9. ^ "Previous Brinker Award Winners". Archived from the original on 2013-12-02.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-03-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (27 May 2006). "Noted Cancer Researcher Anita B. Roberts". Archived from the original on 16 June 2006 – via

External linksEdit