Tribute to Former CANSA Head of Research, Dr Carl Albrecht
CANSA is sad to learn of the loss of Dr. Carl Albrecht who sadly passed away on 23 March 2023. Our condolences to his wife, three children, three grandchildren, and friends in Kleinmond, where he had retired. He will also be missed by colleagues at CANSA who had the wonderful privilege to have worked closely with him over many years.
Dr. Carl Franz de Vos Albrecht was born in Johannesburg in 1943 and would have celebrated his 80th birthday this April 2023. He embarked on a quest to help eradicate cancer more than 50 years ago when he did a Ph.D. at WITS on the mechanism of carcinogenesis using a man-made chemical known as Butteryellow. This work was taken further in the Molecular Anatomy Laboratories in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and then in the National Chemistry Laboratory of the CSIR in Pretoria. In 1976 he was invited to join the Department of Pharmacology at Stellenbosch Medical School and proceeded to study dormancy of melanoma cells as well as testing the indigenous medicinal plant, Hypoxis sp., for anti-cancer properties in human lung cancer patients. This was the first registered clinical trial using an indigenous plant extract in the history of South Africa. He was also a senior lecturer and taught chemotherapy to about 2000 medical students in their third year over a period of 21 years. He wrote a textbook on chemotherapy, published 45 peer-reviewed articles, and was a co-inventor of three US patents.
In 2007 Dr. Albrecht became a freelance medical research consultant, mainly for CANSA, and was appointed full-time by CANSA as the Head of Research in 2007. This position he held until he retired in 2015.
He has served as a representative for Africa on the American Association for Cancer Research, International Affairs Committee and was associated with CANSA for more than 30 years as a Grant holder, Chairman of the Western Cape Regional Council from 1992 – 1996, Research Co-ordinator and as the first Cancer Research Advocate in South Africa helping to translate cancer research results into policy. He has also served CANSA as a member of the research committee. His excellent contributions were awarded the coveted A.G. Oettlé Memorial medal from CANSA twice in 2007 and 2009, in recognition of his significant contributions to the fight against cancer in South Africa.
Dr. Albrecht believed that living life is a great adventure. He loved animals, plants, and unsolved mysteries such as the fairy circles in Namibia, the medicinal properties of Sutherlandia frutescens, and the origin of Homo sapiens. He was writing a book entitled ‘30 Unexplained Wonders of our Awesome Universe’ before his passing. His favourite quote was “One thing leads to another“.
CANSA honours Dr. Albrecht for his meaningful cancer contribution throughout his career and, during his over 30 years of involvement with CANSA.
Our sincere condolences to Carl’s loved ones and family, may they find peace, strength, and courage.