The causes of cancer: when good cells go bad

There are two great theories of cancer.  The first is that certain types of damage to DNA (mutations) cause cells to act selfishly, multiplying and spreading at the expense of the rest of the body.  The second is that more generalised forms of tissue damage (wounding, burns, infection) can trigger chronic tissue damage responses, in which cells become stuck in a continuous attempt to regenerate the tissue, which instead leads to tumour formation.  I will talk about the history of these two great theories, and how recent discoveries have revealed key genes and molecules that are responsible for driving cancer growth and spread through the body - suggesting new approaches for cancer therapy.  

Professor Barry Thompson was an undergraduate BSc student at the University of Queensland, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, and a post-doctoral fellow at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Germany.  In 2007, he established his own lab at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, which became part of the newly founded Francis Crick Institute in 2015. He and his team are studying the genes that control tissue growth and form in model organisms and human cancers.  His focus is on development and tumour formation in epithelial tissues.

Dr Thompson received the EMBO Young Investigator Award in 2011 and a Wellcome Investigator Award in 2014.  He was appointed Professor at the Department of Cancer Biology & Therapeutics at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU in 2019.