World-leading cancer scientist, Professor Karen Vousden, is appointed Cancer Research UK’s new chief scientist today.

As chief scientist she will be responsible for overseeing Cancer Research UK’s scientific research. Her remit will include a focus on the importance of fundamental science in developing new cancer treatments.

“It’s a tremendous honour to be appointed as Cancer Research UK’s chief scientist. Research has already led to better treatments, new drugs, more accurate tests, earlier diagnosis and screening programmes – doubling survival over the last 40 years.” – Professor Vousden

And a priority will be to continue to support and develop opportunities for the Cancer Research UK scientific community to work with international colleagues as well as supporting the next generation of scientific and clinical cancer researchers.

Professor Vousden has had a transatlantic 30 year career at the forefront of cancer research. She will move from her role as director of Cancer Research UK’s Beatson Institute in Glasgow, a post she has held since 2003 and where she has led a major expansion. Deputy director Professor Owen Sansom will lead the institute until a permanent director is recruited later this summer.

Her most significant contribution has been on the study of a tumour suppressor protein called p53 which has a key role in preventing the development of the disease.

She discovered how a protein called Mdm2 controls p53, work that is being developed for new cancer treatments.

Professor Vousden will take up her new role at Cancer Research UK in July, succeeding Professor Nic Jones. She will move her research group to the Francis Crick Institute in the New Year.

Professor Vousden, said: “It’s a tremendous honour to be appointed as Cancer Research UK’s chief scientist. Research has already led to better treatments, new drugs, more accurate tests, earlier diagnosis and screening programmes – doubling survival over the last 40 years.”

“But sadly survival still remains low for some cancer types, including lung, pancreatic, oesophageal cancer and brain tumours, and we are encouraging more research into these areas. We now understand that within each tumour type are several different sub-groups that may respond very differently to treatment. It’s critical that we know more about the core biology at the heart of these cancers to be able to design the most effective therapies and be prepared for the development of resistance to these treatments. We’ll also continue to support research into all 200 types of cancer, across all age groups, to increase survival for all cancer patients.”

Professor Nic Jones, will continue in his role as director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre.

Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer is a complex disease but thanks to research, our understanding of the biology of the disease has improved markedly. Important technological advances have created exciting opportunities to develop new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent the disease which will accelerate progress.

“This progress depends on outstanding individuals like Professor Vousden and their teams who conduct research across the country. Her vast experience will enable us to move closer to our target of three-quarters of patients surviving the disease by 2034.”


For more information please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or out-of-hours on 07050 264 059.


About Professor Karen Vousden

Professor Karen Vousden has held the position of Director of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow since 2003. The Beatson Institute carries out a programme of world-class science directed at understanding key aspects of cancer cell behaviour and provides a state of the art facility where basic and clinical scientists can work together to translate these discoveries into new therapies and diagnostic/prognostic tools to help cancer patients. She has focused on the tumour suppressor protein p53, which plays an important role in cancer prevention. The lab is interested in understanding the signals that induce p53 and the functions of p53 that contribute to its ability to prevent cancer progression.  Ultimately, her team hopes to find ways to use an understanding of the p53 pathway for cancer therapy.

Professor Vousden received her Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of London, followed by postdoctoral fellowships with Chris Marshall at the Institute of Cancer Research in London and Douglas Lowy at the National Cancer Institute in the USA. She then became head of the Human Papillomavirus group at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in London before moving back to the NCI in 1995, where she was Director of the Molecular Virology and Carcinogenesis Section at the ABL-Basic Research programme and then Chief of the Regulation of Cell Growth Laboratory. She has been elected as a fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, EMBO, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association of Arts and Sciences. She has also received honorary DScs from the Universities of London and Strathclyde.  Her awards include the Tenovus Gold Medal, the Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Medal, the Royal Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh and she was made a Commander of the British Empire for services to clinical science. She has also served on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Cancer Research.