Karen H. Vousden, PhD
Professor, The Crick Institute and Chief Scientist, Cancer Research UK, London, England
A widely recognized leader in cancer research, Dr. Vousden is best known for her contributions to the understanding of the regulation and functions of the p53 tumor suppressor protein. She identified PUMA (p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis) as a mediator of p53-dependent apoptosis and showed that MDM2 (mouse double minute 2 homolog) is a key regulator of p53 stability.
Dr. Vousden’s research revealed that MDM2 is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets p53 for proteasomal degradation. Building upon this seminal discovery, she helped to define several mechanisms that lead to MDM2 inhibition and subsequent activation of p53 in response to stress. These studies have underpinned the development of several new cancer therapies aimed at blocking MDM2 function and restoring p53 function in tumors that retain the wild-type protein. More recently, she has led the field in understanding how p53 modulates metabolism and helps to support adaptation and survival. She was also among the first to describe functions for cancer-associated p53 mutants in promoting metastasis.
Prior to investigating p53 regulatory mechanisms and the role of p53 in carcinogenesis, Dr. Vousden’s research centered on understanding the relationship between human papillomaviruses (HPVs) and cervical cancer. In this research, she demonstrated that the E6 and E7 oncoproteins encoded by HPV-16 possess transformative properties and that the presence of HPV in cervical cancers appears to substitute for p53 mutation, strongly supporting the importance of the inactivation of p53 by E6. The validation of HPV as a transforming virus that contributes to the development of cervical carcinoma ultimately led others to develop the HPV vaccine, now in routine use worldwide.
2017 Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences 2015 Elected Fellow, Academia Europaea 2014 Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science 2012-2015 Board of Directors, American Association for Cancer Research 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, European Cell Death Organization 2010 Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire 2009 Elected Fellow, European Academy of Cancer Sciences 2009 Gold Medal, Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland 2008 The Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Memorial Medal, The Biochemical Society 2006 Elected Fellow, Academy of Medical Sciences, London, England 2004 Elected Member, European Molecular Biology Organization 2004 Elected Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland 2003 Elected Fellow, The Royal Society, London, England 2001 MERIT Award, National Institutes of Health 1998 Tenovus Medal, University of Glasgow, Scotland