Harald zur Hausen, Nobelist Who Found Cause of Cervical Cancer, Dies at 87
When he proposed that the human papillomavirus caused cervical cancer, he was ridiculed. He persevered, and today a vaccine exists.
Dr. Harald zur Hausen, a German virologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008 for his discovery that the seemingly benign human papillomavirus, known for causing warts, also caused cervical cancer, died on May 29 at his home in Heidelberg, Germany. He was 87.
His death was announced by the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, which Dr. zur Hausen led for two decades. Josef Puchta, the centers former administrative director and a longtime colleague and friend, said that Dr. zur Hausen had suffered a stroke in May.
Dr. zur Hausens discovery paved the way for vaccines against human papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can also cause other cancers, including of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus and back of the throat.
More than 600,000 people develop an HPV-related cancer every year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Vaccination can prevent as many as 90 percent of those cancers.