A medal created in memory of a St Andrews scientist has been awarded to a professor in America for her outstanding contribution to the field of cancer research. Professor Zena Werb, from the University of California in San Francisco, discovered that there is more to cancer than cancer cells; the molecules and structures between the cancer cells can also be very important in determining how the cancer behaves, how fast it spreads, how rapidly it progresses and possibly even how it responds to treatment.
Professor Werb was presented with the Colin Thomson Memorial Medal at the Beatson International Cancer Conference in Glasgow. She said: “I am very humbled to receive this award. I have always been a maverick in the area of cancer research and this recognition highlights the fact that an unconventional approach can lead to progress and hopefully new therapies.”
Past recipients of the award have included Sir David Lane, one of the world’s greatest cancer scientists and one of the first to receive an AICR grant.
The late Dr Colin Thomson established AICR during his time as a lecturer in chemistry at the University of St Andrews. In the early years Dr Thomson and his wife Maureen, who still serves on the charity’s board of directors, ran the organisation from home with help from family members. In the first year AICR funded £18,000 of cancer research; AICR now funds around £10m a year in 24 different countries, a fantastic achievement of which his wife Maureen states he would be most proud.
She said:“When AICR was set up 30 years ago we never dreamt that the organisation would go on to do so much to further the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer globally. It is a wonderful tribute to a very driven and inspirational man." Dr Thomson sadly died from a bone marrow cancer in 1997, leaving a huge legacy. AICR funded scientists around the world have made major contributions to our understanding of the causes and mechanisms of cancer.
Professer Werb receiving the medal from Maureen Thomson