In This Section
Karen H. Vousden, PhD

Karen H. Vousden, PhD

Cancer Research UK
London, United Kingdom

Class of 2017

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.

Career Highlights

2019 Sergio Lombroso Award in Cancer Research
2018 Elected Foreign Associate, National Academy of Sciences
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, AACR
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, United Kingdom
2008 The Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Memorial Medal, The Biochemical Society
2006 Elected Fellow, Academy of Medical Sciences, London, United Kingdom
2004 Elected Member, European Molecular Biology Organization
2004 Elected Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
2003 Elected Fellow, The Royal Society, London, United Kingdom
2001 MERIT Award, National Institutes of Health
1998 Tenovus Medal, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom