Nobel Prize Recipient. Johannes Fibiger, a Danish pathologist, received international notoriety after being awarded the 1926 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He was presented with the coveted award, according to the Nobel Prize committee, "for his discovery of the Spiroptera carcinoma." Starting in 1920, he received 18 nominations for a Nobel Prize candidacy. Although there were Nobel Prize recipients, who had studied cancer, he was the first to receive a Nobel Prize for his actual research in cancer. Born Johannes Andreas Grib Fibiger, one of twin sons of a physician, his father died in 1870. To support the family, his young, widowed mother wrote cookbooks. He attended local schools and while earning his medical degree, he had an opportunity to study in Germany. While in Germany, he was a student of the first Nobel Prize recipient, Emil von Behring and 1905 Nobel Prize recipient Robert Koch. As an Army reserve doctor at the Hospital for Infectious Diseases from 1894 to 1897, he studied diphtheria , writing his thesis, and in 1895 earning his doctorate degree. In 1902 Fibiger demonstrated that cattle tuberculosis can be transmitted to humans, thus disproving Robert Koch's assertion that cattle tuberculosis was harmless for human beings. He held many posts: University of Copenhagen’s Institute of Pathological Anatomy from 1897 to 1900, the Principal of the Laboratory of Clinical Bacteriology of the Army from 1890 to 1905, Director of the Central Laboratory of the Army and Consultant Physician to the Army Medical Service in 1905 and eventually, appointed Professor of Pathological Anatomy at Copenhagen University and Director of the Institute of Pathological Anatomy in 1900. By chance in 1909, he realized, while studying rats with tuberculosis, that the rats had tumors in their stomachs, which evolved into cancer from an irritation from worms. His conclusion was cancer can be caused by outside agents. In 1913 he presented this discovery to the Royal Danish Academy of Science, calling the cancer “Spiroptera neoplastica.” Japanese pathologist Yamagiwa Katsusaburo gave supporting evidence when he introduced coal tar as the cancer-causing agent, which was applied on rabbit ears; the result was squamous cell carcinoma on the ears. For this research, he received seven nominations for the 1926 Nobel Prize but never received the award. After Fibiger’s death, starting in 1937 for a couple of decades, it was proven and documented in at least three articles published in scientific periodicals that the stomach tumors in Fibiger’s wild rats was not the results of worms as he thought, but from a Vitamin A deficiency diet. A Nobel Prize is awarded on information known at the time of the presentation. Today, Katsusaburo is recognized in the scientific world as being the first to produce a cancer from a chemical agent. Fibiger was a member of many professional organizations, being very active by serving as an officer in many. Beside the Nobel Prize, he received the Nordhoff-Jung Cancer Prize , an American award for cancer research. With much indecision from the Nobel Prize committee, the 1926 recipient for Physiology or Medicine category was announced after the 1926 award presentations, thus he received his 1926 award at the December of 1927 Nobel Prize presentation ceremony. His health was declining by the ceremony. A month after receiving the Nobel Prize, he became acutely ill after surgery for a colon cancer dissection with a colostomy. He developed post-operative complications of cardiac failure with multiple pulmonary emboli infarcts, causing his death.
Bio by: Linda Davis