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WHO honors Henrietta Lacks, Roanoke native whose cells served science

Almost 70 years after her death, Henrietta Lacks receives wider recognition, hometown honors...
Almost 70 years after her death, Henrietta Lacks receives wider recognition, hometown honors for her contribution to medical research.(public domain)
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 3:55 PM EDT
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GENEVA (AP) — The chief of the World Health Organization has honored the late Henrietta Lacks, an American woman whose cancer cells ended up providing the foundation for vast scientific breakthroughs, including research about the coronavirus.

Click here for more stories about Henrietta Lacks, who was born in Roanoke.

The recognition from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday came more than a decade after the publication of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Rebecca Skloot’s book chronicled the discrimination in health care Black Americans faced when Lacks developed cervical cancer, the life-saving innovations made possible by her cells and her family’s legal fight over their unauthorized use.

“What happened to Henrietta was wrong,” Tedros said during a special ceremony at WHO Geneva headquarters.

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