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Glasgow scientist receives prestigious honour

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by Cancer Research UK | News

7 August 2009

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A Cancer Research UK scientist in Glasgow has been awarded a Royal Medal by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

Professor Karen Vousden, director of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, received the accolade for her outstanding contribution to cancer research.

Just three Royal Medals are awarded by the RSE’s Patron, Her Majesty The Queen, each year. The medallists are recommended by the RSE’s Council, in recognition of intellectual endeavour which has had a profound influence on people’s lives in Scotland and worldwide.

Professor Vousden has been director of Cancer Research UK’s Beatson Institute since 2002. The institute carries out world class science aimed at understanding how cancer cells behave at a biological level. Scientists at the institute then translate these discoveries into new technologies and therapies to help diagnose and treat cancer patients.

Commenting on the award, Professor Vousden said: “I’m honoured and delighted to receive this prestigious award and to join the company of such a distinguished list of previous recipients. I have been privileged over the years to work with many outstanding scientists, both in my own team and beyond. Each of them contributed immeasurably to the success of our work and I would like to thank them all for their support and commitment.”

As well as heading up the institute – which recently undertook a £15 million expansion – Professor Vousden also leads the institute’s tumour suppression research group, an area in which she is known as a world leader.

Professor Vousden’s work on the protein – known as the ‘guardian of the genome’ because it is damaged in most cancers – has been important in understanding the underlying reasons why this protein prevents the development of tumours.

And her work in identifying the role of another protein called MDM2 in controlling p53 activity is of crucial importance. This discovery has opened up a new research avenue which is looking to ‘kick start’ p53 in some tumour cells, and this could lead directly to the development of new targeted drug treatments for cancer.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “We’re delighted that one of our most senior scientists has been recognised with this fantastic award, which is richly deserved. Professor Vousden’s research into how cells behave at a molecular level is helping scientists around the world to develop more effective treatments for cancer that selectively target cancer cells during chemotherapy, without harming normal cells.”

Cancer Research UK spends £31 million on research in Scotland, of which more than £18 million goes to supporting the ground-breaking work done at the Beatson Institute.

Harpal Kumar added: “This research is having a direct impact on cancer patients today and as director of the Beatson Institute Professor Vousden also works tremendously hard to support and nurture scientists of the future and this will benefit cancer patients for many years to come.”

Professor Vousden attended Gravesend Grammar School for Girls in Kent, and gained her first degree in genetics and microbiology – and a PhD in genetics – from Queen Mary College, University of London. Her early career was spent at the Institute of Cancer Research in London before she embarked on a number of positions at scientific institutions both in the UK and America.

Professor Vousden will be presented with the Royal Medal by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on Tuesday 11 August, 2009.


For media enquiries, please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 0207 061 8300 or out-of-hours the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.