A brilliant Cancer Research UK scientist will receive Europe’s most prestigious award for medical research for discovering a key control centre, which may allow cancer cells to monitor and manipulate the healthy tissue that surrounds them.
Dr Richard Treisman, Director of the charity’s London Research Institute, will gain a personal award of £46,000 and £250,000 for his laboratory as part of the Louis-Jeantet Prize.
His research has uncovered a molecular switch called the Serum Response Element, which acts like a telephone mast, receiving and unscrambling the complex web of signals that cancer cells use to communicate with their healthy counterparts.
Untangling this communication system may allow scientists to develop strategies to counter the growth and spread of cancer and could lead to new types of anti-cancer drug.
Dr Treisman will receive the award at a special ceremony in Geneva. His success follows hot on the heels of Sir Paul Nurse’s and Dr Tim Hunt’s recent Nobel Prize win and reinforces Cancer Research UK’s position at the forefront of world science.
He says: “It’s a huge honour to receive this award and the extra funds will help ensure that we continue to do research of the highest standard.
“The new money will allow us to expand and improve our research projects and of course the personal element of the prize is most welcome!”
Dr Treisman, 47, has been working at the charity since 1988. His work centres on the mechanisms which control communication between cancer cells and healthy tissue.
He has discovered that the Serum Response Element is crucial for making sense of the chemical signals sent out by both cancererous and healthy cells. Tumours may able to manipulate the control centres of healthy cells in order to change the behaviour of the surrounding tissue, creating an environment that is conducive to cancer’s growth and spread.
He has also found that cancer cells are finely tuned to respond to signals from healthy tissue. The way a tumour responds can affect its subsequent development, so understanding the communication process could eventually bring leads for new treatments.
Sir Paul, Interim Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, says: “I’m thrilled to see Dr Treisman’s achievements honoured in this way.
“This kind of research is vital to our fundamental understanding of cancer and we believe it will form the foundations for treatments of the future.”
The Louis-Jeantet award is now in its 17th year and previous winners include Cancer Research UK scientists Sir Paul Nurse, Sir Richard Peto and Prof Ron Laskey.
With 17 winners from a total of 53, the UK has received more Louis-Jeantet awards than any other country.
Based in Geneva, the Louis-Jeantet Foundation was named after a French businessman who left a vast fortune to fund biomedical research in Europe.
Other winners this year are Prof Timothy Richmond who works at the Institute for Molecular Biology and Biophysics in Zurich and Dr Karl Tryggvason at the Karolinska Intitutet in Stockholm.
Dr Treisman was elected to the prestigious Royal Society in 1994 and won the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Medal in 1995. He has published over 70 research papers and reviews.