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Colin Thomson memorial medal winner gives keynote speech in Glasgow

Some of the world’s leading cancer research scientists gathered at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow on Sunday 5 July to hear the opening keynote speech given by this year’s recipient of the Colin Thomson Memorial Medal, Professor Ian Macara, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

The prestigious medal, sponsored by Worldwide Cancer Research, has been awarded each year since 2007, at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow, to a scientist in recognition of their outstanding contribution to research into cancer.

For more than a decade, Professor Macara’s laboratory has been uncovering important evidence about the crucial role of cell polarity in cancer and throughout his career he has also contributed numerous advances in other areas of cancer biology.  As such, the scientific committee of the Beatson Cancer Conference nominated him a worthy recipient of the Colin Thomson Medal.

Professor Macara’s laboratory in Nashville studies a system called cell polarity. For cells to function properly they have to be able to sense the direction they are facing; which bit of the cell is towards the ‘outside’ of the tissue and which part faces ‘inside’.  This enables cells to arrange their internal components accordingly, putting the right bits of machinery on the right sides.  Loss of cell polarity – the spatial awareness and organisation of a cell - is now known to be a driver of cancer development and growth.

Professor Macara commented: “Worldwide Cancer Research is an innovative and important funder of cancer research and has supported nearly 2,000 research projects around the world since its establishment by Dr Colin Thomson in 1979. Dr Thomson’s efforts in supporting cancer research are truly inspiring, and it’s a great – and unexpected – honour to have been chosen to present the Colin Thomson Memorial Keynote lecture this year. I am humbled to have been selected for this recognition and by the remarkable list of truly outstanding cancer biologists who have given the memorial lecture in years past.”