In Memoriam: Cancer Center's Tim Bowden

In Memoriam: Cancer Center's Tim Bowden

By Anna C. ChristensenUniversity of Arizona Cancer Center
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Tim and Diane Bowden
Tim and Diane Bowden
The Bowdens could frequently be seen hiking up Mt. Lemmon or on trails in Sabino Canyon.
The Bowdens could frequently be seen hiking up Mt. Lemmon or on trails in Sabino Canyon.
Bowden's friends and colleagues remember his warmth and his love for both science and the outdoors.
Bowden's friends and colleagues remember his warmth and his love for both science and the outdoors.

A celebration of life will be held June 28 in the UA Cancer Center's Kiewit Auditorium, 1515 N. Campbell Ave. A gathering for the University and local science communities will be from 10 a.m. to noon, followed by lunch. The celebration will continue for family and friends only from 1-3 p.m. Please RSVP by June 20 by clicking here.

George Timothy "Tim" Bowden, UA Cancer Center professor emeritus and a founding member of the Cancer Biology Graduate Interdisciplinary Program, died May 15 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 74.

Andrew Kraft, UA Cancer Center director, called Bowden "an outstanding scientist with a national reputation."

"The Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine is deeply grieved by the loss of Dr. Bowden," said Carol Gregorio, the department's head. "I am confident that the strong spirit of research he championed will live on."

Skin cancer was the focus of Bowden's research and much of his work was funded by the National Cancer Institute's Skin Cancer Program Project Grant, which brought tens of millions of dollars to the UA Cancer Center. Bowden's lab investigated cancer preventive agents, including drugs that could be applied to sun-damaged skin to reduce skin cancer risk.

"Dr. Bowden was world-famous for his work on ultraviolet light-induced skin cancer and was very highly regarded as a scientist," said David Alberts, director emeritus of the UA Cancer Center. "That was his passion. He created a whole field of research and training."

Bowden helped identify molecules in the body that respond to UV light exposure; these molecules can change as skin cells become cancerous. He believed that studying how these molecules changed during a cell's journey to cancer could reveal places in the process that could be targeted by novel pharmaceutical agents or certain natural products, helping people at high risk of skin cancer reduce their risk.

"The Skin Cancer Institute at the UA Cancer Center will continue to carry on his legacy," said Clara Curiel, director of the Cutaneous Oncology Program.

Many Cancer Center members started their careers with Bowden at their sides, guiding them through their education as a mentor and teacher.

"Tim invited me into his lab as an undergraduate summer student in 1998, and I continued working in his lab through graduate school. He has been more than a mentor ever since," recalled Betsey Wagener, a research administrator at the Skin Cancer Institute. "Tim was generous and gracious to his lab team, and he never failed to give credit to those who worked with him."

After his retirement, Bowden and his wife, Diane, supported Cancer Center students through the Tim and Diane Bowden Cancer Biology Research Fund.

"We want to see the cancer biology program flourish," Bowden said when the fund was created. "We see these students and mentees as our extended family."

"Dr. Bowden's memory will live on through those he knew, but also through our Cancer Biology Graduate Interdisciplinary Program – a program he and his wife made sustainable through their continuing support," ensuring that the next generation of cancer research scholars could be trained, added Anne Cress, professor of cellular and molecular medicine and radiation oncology.

The Bowdens also helped found PWR!Gym, an exercise and wellness center for Parkinson's patients.

Bowden had been diagnosed in 2007 with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative condition that causes a decline in balance and motor skills. Instead of being sidelined by his diagnosis, Bowden learned about research showing that certain intense exercises can ease many Parkinson's symptoms, which led him and his wife to help launch the center.

Bowden's love for science extended beyond his work. He also was fond of the outdoors.

"Tim demonstrated how to enjoy life to its fullest," Wagener recalled. "He balanced his hard work in the lab with his love of outdoor activities. I will always remember Tim as a friend, mentor, passionate scientist and remarkable human being."

"Dr. Bowden lived his life as an example of hard work, discipline and generosity," added Sally Dickinson, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and member of the Skin Cancer Institute.

Tim and Diane were junior high school sweethearts in Cincinnati and married in 1966. Bowden, who received his doctorate in experimental oncology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, joined the UA Department of Radiology in 1978. In 2006, he was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Bowden retired from the UA in 2010.

"While Dr. Bowden was a terrific scientist, most of us will agree that it was his kind and considerate approach to almost everything he did that was so remarkable," Curiel said.

"We had a tremendous friendship," Alberts said. "He was one of the most wonderful gentlemen. He made the word 'gentleman' mean something."

In lieu of flowers, Diane Bowden has requested that donations be made to the Tim and Diane Bowden Cancer Biology Research Fund, 520-626-5752, or to PWR!Gym, 520-591-5346.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Cancer Center's website.

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