Dr. Jonathan Uhr, immunologist who opened cancer treatment paths, dies at 96

Jonathan Uhr, MD, a medical researcher who expanded knowledge on antibodies and cancer treatments, died of prostate cancer on Feb. 15. He was 96, The Washington Post reported.

Dr. Uhr entered immunology in the 1950s, at a time when little was known about the functioning of the immune system. His work centered on antibodies, and he was the first to identify circular tumor cells, which are found in the blood and when detected can allow treatment before a relapse or metastasis advances. 

"He was the first one who showed we can isolate and identify cancer cells among the millions of other cells we have in the blood," Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, chief of breast medical oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, told the Post.

Dr. Uhr's earlier research explained why vaccinations worked and why boosters are sometimes needed, and his work in oncology broadened cancer care beyond surgery, radiation and chemotherapy to include targeted therapies that attack specific cells. His discoveries were first applied to breast, prostate and colorectal cancers, but, along with more recent research, hold promise for other forms of cancer.

Dr. Uhr is survived by his wife, two daughters, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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