Kurt W. Kohn, M.D., Ph.D.

Kurt W. Kohn, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Center for Cancer Research
  • National Cancer Institute
  • Building 37, Room 5060B
  • Bethesda, MD 20892
  • 240-760-7317
  • 240-541-4475
Developmental Therapeutics Branch


Dr. Kohn demonstrated that bifunctional alkylating agents produce DNA interstrand crosslinks and that this is their major cytotoxic action. He elucidated a new mechanism of drug action on DNA, based on the anthramycin group of antibiotics. In 1974, he discovered the DNA filter elution phenomenon in which DNA molecules pass through micropore filters at a rate dependent on DNA strand length. Based on these observations, he developed methodology to measure several types of DNA damage in mammalian cells. This methodology was widely used for more than 20 years in many laboratories to study DNA damage and repair in mammalian cells. Using DNA filter elution studies, Dr. Kohn and his colleagues showed that DNA topoisomerases are targets of action of several clinical anticancer drugs (1979-1982). This led to worldwide interest in topoisomerase-targeted drugs that has continued to the present time. In the 1990s, Dr. Kohn and his colleagues began to apply the emerging knowledge of cell cycle checkpoints to study the responses of cancer cells to DNA damage. As an aid to this end, he developed a notation for molecular interaction maps that received considerable interest.

Areas of Expertise

Molecular Interaction Mapping