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Gibb Research Fellowship awarded to Cancer Research UK scientist

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by Cancer Research UK | News

25 October 2013

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Professor Tony Kouzarides has been made a Gibb Fellow1 in recognition of his significant contribution to our understanding of the complex processes that underlie the development of cancer.

“Understanding how chromatin modification is associated with cancer has helped us look for new drugs that could be used to treat cancer patients.” – Professor Tony Kouzarides, Gibb Fellow

The award acknowledges his world-leading research into chromatin modification2 – an area of research known as epigenetics – that looks at how our genes are switched on and off in healthy cells, and why this goes wrong in cancer. Cancer Research UK has funded Professor Kouzarides’s research since the early 1990s.

The Gibb Research Fellowship is awarded to researchers who have made a significant contribution to translating their knowledge of basic cancer biology into the clinic for the benefit of cancer patients. It is funded by an endowment left to Cancer Research UK by James Gibb and his wife.

Professor Kouzarides received his PhD in virology at the University of Cambridge and undertook postdoctoral work at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology on the cancer inducing potential of human cytomegalovirus.

Following a move to New York University Medical Centre, he returned to Cambridge to lead a research group at the Gurdon Institute where he is currently Deputy Director.

Professor Kouzarides has been at the forefront of research into epigenetics. In 1996 he was one of the first people to show that when chromatin modification went wrong this could lead to the development of some cancers. In 2011, he and his team showed that a new drug, ‘I-BET,’ could be a potential new leukaemia treatment.

Professor Kouzarides, said: “It is a great honour to join the ranks of other Gibb fellows who have received the award for their life-saving work into the biology of cancer. My research focuses on the fundamental processes that underlie how our genes are switched on and off but the real satisfaction comes from turning these discoveries, made at the laboratory bench, into significant benefits for cancer patients.

“Understanding how chromatin modification is associated with cancer has helped us look for new drugs that could be used to treat cancer patients. Our research into the small molecule inhibitor I-BET is now being tested in clinical trials as a treatment for patients with leukaemia.”

Professor Kouzarides joins three other Gibb fellows: Professor Nic Jones, Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre; Professor Chris Marshall, Director of Research at the Institute of Cancer Research; and Professor Sir Bruce Ponder, Head of the department of Oncology at the University of Cambridge.

Professor Daniel St Johnston, director of The Wellcome trust and Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, said: “It’s amazing that Tony has consistently managed to produce ground-breaking results year after year over a period of twenty years. He’s one of the top rated cancer scientists in Europe and his most recent research is very likely to result in new treatments for leukaemia patients in the near future. His focus on translating discoveries in the lab into benefits for patients has inspired many others to follow his path.”

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “I am delighted that Tony Kouzarides has been awarded a Gibb Research Fellowship. We’ve funded his pioneering work into chromatin modification for over two decades, and this research has been turned into genuine life-saving opportunities such as drug targets for leukaemia patients. Understanding how some cancers differ epigenetically is just one of the fundamental questions in cancer science that research is helping to answer.

“Cancer Research UK continues to fund some of the very best scientists in the world, carrying out world-class research that is changing the lives of people diagnosed with cancer.”


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