Peter Jones was born in South Africa, raised and attended school in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and received his Ph.D. from the University of London in 1973. He is currently a Distinguished Professor and Sawyer Chair in Cancer Research at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. He was the Director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center from 1993 to 2011. He is known for his studies on the molecular biology cancer and of basic mechanisms of DNA methylation and its role in cancer and differentiation. His laboratory discovered the effects of 5-azacytidine on DNA methylation and linked this process to the activation of silenced genes.