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Donald Morton, cancer researcher, surgeon, dies at 79

Jan. 18, 2014 at 5:56 PM

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Cancer surgeon and researcher Donald Morton has died of heart failure at a hospital in California, officials said. He was 79.

Morton died Jan. 10 at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Don Morton was one of the most famous cancer surgeons in the world and was instrumental in changing the face of cancer and cancer research," said Dr. Anton J. Bilchik, chief of medicine at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's, where Morton spent the last 23 years of his career. "His contributions have been monumental, literally saving countless lives."

Morton, who predominantly researched breast cancer and melanoma, is credited with developing a technique for injecting a dye, and later radioactive tracers, into a breast cancer tumor that helped identify which nodes the tumor spread to. He spent the last 30 years of his career working to develop a therapeutic vaccine for melanoma.

Experts believe Morton's work saved the U.S. healthcare system more than $3.8 billion per year in the treatment of melanoma and breast cancer, the Times said.

Morton co-wrote more than 1,000 research papers and received numerous scientific awards during his career.

He is survived by his second wife, Lorraine, whom he married in 1989; daughters Danielle Morton, Christin Kazmierczak, Laura Morton Rowe and Diana Morton McAlpine; son Donald L. Morton Jr.; eight grandchildren; a brother, Patrick; and a sister, Carolyn Morton Karr.

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