PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) congratulates Tom Curran, PhD, on his appointment as chief scientific officer and executive director of the Children’s Research Institute at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri. Curran served as president of the AACR from 2001 to 2002 and is a fellow of the AACR Academy, having been elected in the inaugural class in 2013.
“On behalf of the American Association for Cancer Research, I wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Past President Tom Curran on his appointment as chief scientific officer and executive director of the Children’s Research Institute at Children’s Mercy Kansas City,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “Dr. Curran is a highly esteemed investigator and leader in the field of pediatric cancer research, and his scientific expertise and dedication to the translation of basic scientific knowledge to the clinic will be invaluable to the mission and future goals of Children’s Mercy Kansas City.”
Until recently, Curran was deputy scientific director and director of basic scientific research in the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). He was also a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Curran’s new role at the Children’s Research Institute, which was established in 2015, became effective Feb. 1.
Curran is known for his discovery of the Fos oncogene and its binding partner, p39, which he later showed was the product of the Jun oncogene. His laboratory demonstrated that Fos and Jun function as inducible transcription factors, as leucine zipper dimers that bind AP-1 recognition sequences, to regulate gene expression in response to extracellular stimuli associated with proliferation, differentiation, cell death, and neuronal activation. This work elucidated the signal transduction pathways that go awry in cancer cells and has initiated the use of Fos as a marker for activity-dependent changes in the nervous system.
His laboratory also uncovered redox regulation of mammalian transcription factors by Ref-1, which also functions as a DNA repair protein. In addition, he identified the gene Reelin and elaborated a signaling pathway, involving Lipoprotein Receptors, Disabled-1, and Crk family proteins that control neuronal positioning in the developing brain.
Curran recently developed a high-incidence model of pediatric medulloblastoma that he used to demonstrate that orally bioavailable, small-molecule inhibitors of Hedgehog signaling rapidly eliminate even large tumors in mice. This work led to the clinical development of inhibitors of smoothened for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma and medulloblastoma.
Prior to his tenure at CHOP, which began in 2006, Curran served as chairman of the Department of Developmental Neurobiology at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which he founded in 1995, following his role as associate director at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, New Jersey. He served on the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors from 2000 to 2005.
As a world-renowned scientist, Curran has been recognized with numerous honors and awards, including the Tenovus-Scotland Medal from Glasgow University, the Rita Levi-Montalcini Award in Neurosciences, the Passano Foundation Young Scientist Award, the AACR Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research Award, the Golgi Award from the Italian Academy of Neuroscience and the Camillo Golgi Foundation, and the Peter M. Steck Memorial Award. In addition to being an elected fellow of the AACR Academy, he is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine in the United States, and a fellow of the Royal Society in London, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Microbiology.
Curran, who is originally from Scotland, received his doctorate from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories and University College in London. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.