ALBANY, N.Y. — Three scientists at universities in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Oregon whose research has helped transform cancer treatment will share one of the richest prizes in their field.

Dr. Peter Nowell of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Janet Rowley of the University of Chicago and Dr. Brian Druker of Oregon Health and Science University will receive the $500,000 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research next month.

Center officials said the trio’s work has given hope to cancer patients across the globe.

The center says: Nowell’s research was the first to show that a genetic defect could be responsible for cancer. Rowley’s discoveries of chromosome abnormalities in leukemia secured a common agreement that cancer is, in fact, a genetic disease. Druker, an oncologist in Portland, Ore., used earlier work by Nowell and Rowley to develop a lifesaving treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia that does not harm healthy cells.