Alan Clarke

Alan Clarke Credit: Cardiff University

We were shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden and untimely passing of Professor Alan Clarke, who died while walking his dog shortly after Christmas.

Alan was a leading light in UK cancer research, director of our Cancer Research UK Cardiff Centre and Cardiff University’s European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute (ECSCRI), and an important figure in the Wales Cancer Research Centre (WCRC).

His research focused on studying the genes and molecules that go wrong early in cancer development – especially bowel, breast and prostate cancers – to understand how cancer cells become different from healthy cells and grow out of control.

In particular he was interested in cancer stem cells – cells in tumours that often don’t respond to standard treatments and which seem to fuel the disease’s growth. He and his team were investigating these cells in the lab to find new ways to stop cancer coming back after treatment and spreading around the body.

As director of our Cardiff Cancer Research UK Centre, Alan was responsible for boosting research in the city and speeding up the translation of bright ideas in the lab to new treatments for patients.

Professor John Chester, one of Alan’s colleagues at Cardiff University and Director of the Wales Cancer Research Centre, writes:

“Alan will be missed greatly by very many of us. He has been a scientist of genuinely international reputation and impact in his field. As well as his outstanding scientific work he was central to so much that is good in cancer research in Cardiff and in Wales.

“Beyond ECSCRI, the Cancer Research UK Centre and WCRC, he was an important figure in the development of the Wales Gene Park and a driving force behind the current genesis of the Wales Cancer Partnership.

“Alan was an enormous asset to our reputation for excellent cancer research. He was also blessed with many personal gifts, too. He had admirably co-operative instincts, with many laboratory and clinical collaborations, partly because of his natural, easy-going style. He also had an amazing ability to seem eternally patient, calm and good-humoured.

“Once the initial period of shock and grieving is past, we will need to work together even harder as a cancer research community to continue the forward momentum of all of Alan’s excellent work.

“In the meantime, I am sure you will join me in expressing sincere condolences to his wife, Kathryn, his daughters, Naomi and Lucy, and to the many colleagues who will miss him in so many different ways.”

Professor Jim Murray, Head of the School of Biosciences at Cardiff, said: “The sudden and untimely death of Professor Alan Clarke will be felt by all of us who knew him and the wider scientific community. He was an invaluable colleague, a patient and thoughtful mentor, and an outstanding scientist and leader.”

At this difficult time our thoughts are with Alan’s family and his colleagues in Cardiff and the wider research community. He will be greatly missed.

If you knew or worked with Alan, please do leave your tribute in the comments below, or email us at [email protected] and we will post it for you.