The Team

Professor W Nicol Keith

professor-nicol-keithNicol Keith obtained his undergraduate training in genetics at Edinburgh University before undertaking his PhD studies at the CRUK Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow. After post-doctoral research in areas related to cancer drug resistance, he established his research program in the Department of Medical Oncology at Glasgow University. In 2004 he became Professor of Molecular Oncology at the Centre for Oncology & Applied Pharmacology of Glasgow University.

Professor Keith’s program brings together the key strategic areas of cellular immortality and senescence with the regulation of gene expression. The overall objective of his work is to carry out translational research extending the identification of basic mechanisms of gene regulation into validated targets for new therapeutics. Telomerase activity is vital for tumour progression. Through his research program, the group have discovered and characterised the key promoter sequences, which switch on/off telomerase RNA gene expression. This discovery has been used to develop a detailed understanding of the molecular mechanisms influencing telomerase activity and how cancer cells become immortal.

Professor Keith’s group focuses on exploiting their unique understanding of cancer cell immortality to develop novel cancer therapeutics including small molecule drugs. His research is currently supported by grants from Cancer Research UK, European Community, and Glasgow University.

Nicol is a member of several national and international scientific committees and is particularly active within the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) including chairing the UICC International Cancer Technology Transfer Fellowships (ICRETT) grants committee which facilitate rapid international transfer of cancer research techniques and technology and clinical management skills across the globe.

Professor Dorothy Bennett

Professor Dorothy BennettDot Bennett studied Natural Sciences at The University of Cambridge and her PhD was in breast cancer cell biology with Renato Dulbecco at what is now the CR-UK London Research Institute (LRI). Her postdoctoral positions were on mammary stem cells with Dr Dulbecco at the Salk Institute, California and then on mathematical modelling of melanoma cell differentiation and the cell cycle with JA Smith at the LRI. She then established a research group at St George’s Medical School, University of London, later joining the academic staff and gaining a Chair in Cell Biology (1999). Her research is currently funded by The Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK, the MRC and the South-West Academic Network.

Her group’s research focuses on employing cell biological and molecular genetic approaches to understand the key differences between normal and cancer cells in order to benefit diagnosis and therapy. They retain an interest in melanoma, a common and rapidly progressing cancer, and its cells of origin, melanocytes. They are considered world leaders in the culture of these cells and provide cultures to hundreds of groups worldwide. Dot’s group have contributed to the intensive genetic characterization of both melanocytes and melanoma. This has led to a focus on mechanisms of cell senescence, a cellular arrest mechanism involving all known familial melanoma genes. They were among the first to show that cell senescence occurs in vivo, in benign growths, and functions as a barrier to cancer. Thus restoration of cell senescence might provide a novel route to therapy for resistant cancers like melanoma.

Professor Bennett holds and has held a number of diverse international positions, expert panel memberships and consultancies; for example she is Past President of the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies and a Steering Committee member for the Society for Melanoma Research.

Dr Masashi Narita

Dr Masashi NaritaMasashi Narita obtained his MD in Osaka University School of Medicine in Japan. After 4 years training in the Department of Surgery in Osaka University and its affiliated hospitals, he started his PhD studies at The Graduate School of Medicine Osaka University. In 2000, he moved to Cold Spring Harbor laboratory (CSHL) to do his postdoctoral research related to cellular senescence as a tumour suppressor mechanism in Professor Scott Lowe’s group. In 2006, he joined the Cancer Research UK, Cambridge Research Institute as a group leader.

At CSHL, he identified a unique chromatin organization specific to cellular senescence, senescence associated heterochromatic foci (SAHFs), which has since been used widely as a new marker of senescence. His program brings in a new strategy to identify targets that trigger senescence using SAHFs as a tool. The aim of this program is to translate SAHF inducers in to cancer therapies.

Based on the idea that senescence is a heterogeneous phenotype involving multiple effector mechanisms, his group is actively seeking new pathways that contribute to senescence. Through this effort, the group recently identified autophagy as a new effector mechanism of senescence. This discovery links two important stress responses, senescence and autophagy, and raises many important questions, which will be extensively followed by the group.

Dr Chris Torrance

Dr Chris TorranceChris has a total of twelve years oncology research and development experience, including six years as a senior manager at Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company, Vernalis. His principle expertise lies in cancer cell biology and drug discovery. In this field, he has led project teams taking drug targets from inception through to hit identification, lead optimisation and into preclinical studies.

Chris is the co-inventor on a patent describing the use of “isogenic” X-MAN cell-lines to directly screen for agents that affect specific cancer pathways. As a result of this work, he has developed considerable expertise in the generation of X-MAN cell-lines and their application to drug discovery.

Cancer Research Technology Limited

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Dr Elisabeth Parker, Business Development

Cancer Research Technology Limited (CRT) is the leading oncology focused technology transfer and development company. CRT sources and develops cancer discoveries from top academics, translating their world-class research into industrial propositions. CRT seeks to identify innovative scientific and business solutions to unmet needs in oncology, partnering with industry to create commercial value and patient benefit from cancer discoveries.

CRT is wholly owned by Cancer Research UK, the largest independent funder of cancer research in the world.