Prevent Cancer Foundation remembers prevention pioneer Dr. David Alberts

Photo courtesy of the University of Arizona Cancer Center

The Prevent Cancer Foundation expresses profound sorrow over the loss of Dr. David Alberts, director emeritus of the Arizona Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Arizona and chairman of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board. Dr. Alberts died on July 29, 2023.

A pioneer in cancer prevention and early detection, Dr. Alberts was among the first to champion the integration of preventive medicine into the “War on Cancer.” In the 1990s, he served as chair of the chemoprevention advisory committee to the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Dr. Alberts’ influence on the NCI led to a crucial modification in guidelines, compelling cancer centers to include prevention in their scope in order to be designated a “comprehensive” cancer center. In 1994, he joined the Prevent Cancer Foundation board of directors and continued to serve in an emeritus capacity until his death. He honored the Foundation by serving for nearly three decades as chair of its Medical Advisory Board.

Dr. Alberts joined the University of Arizona College of Medicine in 1975 as an assistant professor, and remained at the leading cancer center for nearly 50 years, rising to the position of professor and center director in 2005 and subsequently director emeritus in 2013. His previous accomplishments at the NCI led to Arizona’s former head of medicine seeking out Dr. Alberts’ expertise to establish the center’s prevention program. Dr. Alberts received several peer-reviewed grants from the Prevent Cancer Foundation to build the program, jumpstarting not only the center’s prevention program, but a decades-long relationship with the Foundation.

The UA Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program launched the research careers of many accomplished scientists who have received funding from the Foundation, including Drs. Elena Martinez, Ph.D., professor and associate director of Population Sciences, Disparities and Community Engagement at the UC San Diego Moores Comprehensive Cancer Center and Anna Giuliano, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. Both were former mentees of Dr. Alberts and also served alongside him on the Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board.

“Dr. Alberts had a major impact on the field of cancer prevention by mentoring several generations of researchers, most of whom went on to successful careers, magnifying his cancer prevention contributions,” said Dr. Anna Giuliano. “It is with gratitude and sadness that I bid farewell to a great man who taught so many of us how to work collaboratively to pursue our common vision of a world without cancer.”

As chairman of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board, Dr. Alberts provided advice and guidance to members of the board—all of whom are leaders in the field of cancer prevention or early detection in the U.S.—as well as leading the continued efforts to update and review the information the Foundation uses to educate the public.

“We have lost a long-time and valued friend and advisor and extend our heartfelt and sincere condolences to Dr. Alberts’ family, friends and colleagues.” said Carolyn Aldigé, founder of Prevent Cancer and personal friend of Dr. Alberts since they met in 1994.

The Foundation is deeply grateful for Dr. Alberts’ unwavering commitment to ensure prevention was given the respect it deserves in the cancer field. His focus on prevention led us to where we are today and remains at the forefront of our work to empower people to stay ahead of cancer through prevention and early detection.