Royal Society elects Tom Curran as Fellow

06/03/05

Past AACR President recognized for work in molecular oncology and neurobiology

PHILADELPHIA Tom Curran, Ph.D., FRS, took his place alongside such distinguished scientists as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking with his election last week as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. The 345-year-old Society is the national academy of science of the United Kingdom. The main criterion for election is scientific excellence.

Dr. Curran, a native of Scotland who enjoys dual, U.K./U.S. citizenship, is chairman of the department of developmental neurobiology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. He served the American Association for Cancer Research as president in 2000. His research focuses on molecular events that control the formation of the brain in mammals, and has shown that deregulated gene expression is a critical factor in the development and progression of cancer.

Early in his career, Dr. Curran discovered the fos oncogene and demonstrated its function in gene regulation. He then illustrated how the activity of nerves in the brain can affect the function of fos. This groundbreaking discovery helped open a new field of study key to explaining how changes in gene activity result in alterations in learning and memory. It was recognized by the AACR in 1993, when Dr. Curran received the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research, given annually to an accomplished young investigator in the field who is no more than 40 years old at the time the award is conferred.

His subsequent study of a gene called Reelin led to important new insights into how nerve cells in the developing brain migrate to their final locations to form orderly layers.

More recently, Dr. Curran has linked his interest in brain development to the studies of the molecular basis of cancer. Based on this work, he pioneered laboratory studies of a novel molecule called HhAntag to treat brain cancer without the need for traditional chemotherapy or radiation.

"Dr. Curran's research has had an enormous impact on the study of oncogenes, signal transduction, regulation of gene expression and neuronal function," said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for Cancer Research. "His work at the molecular level has played a key role in our understanding of brain cancers, as well as in the development of new therapies, exemplifying the importance of translational research to the ultimate conquest of cancer," Foti added.

A member of the AACR since 1989, Dr. Curran has served on committees for special conferences, publications, finance and awards. Currently, he is on the editorial board of the AACR journal Molecular Cancer Research, and he chairs the International Affairs Committee.

"I am deeply honored by this great recognition from my peers in science," said Dr. Curran, "I hope that as a Fellow of the Royal Society I can further advance international cancer research."

Dr. Curran is one of 44 preeminent scientists from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries elected to the Royal Society this year. The election process is extremely rigorous and based on the established practice of peer review. Currently, there are about 1,300 Fellows and Foreign Members of the Society, which supports scientists through grants, encourages science and mathematics education, provides advice on science policy, convenes international scientific meetings and informs the public about the latest, cutting-edge science.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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