Professor Richard Houlston, a world-leading geneticist at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of his outstanding contribution to cancer research.
Election to the Royal Society Fellowship is the highest accolade in UK science and recognises individuals for their scientific excellence and substantial contributions to research endeavours.
Professor Houlston is Professor of Genetics and Epidemiology at the ICR. He has made outstanding contributions to research identifying and characterising susceptibility genes for cancer, often by conducting large-scale genome studies including many thousands of people.
The ICR now has five Fellows of the Royal Society among current staff.
Our Chief Executive, Professor Paul Workman, and our Head of Cancer Biology, Professor Jon Pines, were elected last year, joining Professor Mel Greaves, Director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer, and Professor Julian Downward, who has a joint post between the ICR and The Francis Crick Institute.
In addition, Professor Peter Rigby, the ICR's Professor Emeritus of Developmental Biology, is also a Fellow.
The election of three Fellows in two years is a reflection of the quality of the ICR's research – across genetics, basic cancer biology, translational and clinical research.
Genetic risk research
Professor Houlston has identified regions of the genome associated with risk of many cancers, including bowel cancer, lung cancer, glioblastoma, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
His genome-wide association studies into ALL were some of the first that functionally linked variations in patients' genetics to biological processes that drive the disease.
Professor Houlston graduated with distinction in Medicine from Imperial College London, and gained an MD and PhD degrees from the University of London before joining the ICR in 1994.
He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Pathologists and the Institute of Biology, and is co-editor at the British Journal of Cancer.
The Royal Society said about Professor Houlston's election as Fellow: "Richard Houlston is distinguished for his contributions to the understanding of the genetics of cancer susceptibility and the application of that knowledge to clinical practice. He has led highly successful gene discovery studies of colorectal and lung cancer, primary brain tumours and haematological malignancies. He has been at the forefront of work establishing the polygenic basis of cancer susceptibility in general and its underlying biological basis.
"His work on the identification of genetic susceptibility to renal and smooth muscle tumours provided evidence of pseudo-hypoxic drive in the development of cancer. Importantly his work has led to changes in the management of individuals at risk of cancer who can benefit from targeted screening and interventions."
Professor Workman, Chief Executive of the ICR, said: "The Fellowship of the Royal Society is made up of the most eminent scientists in the UK, and I'm absolutely delighted that Richard has been elected. It's terrific news for him personally, and a reflection also of the excellence of research at the ICR.
"Over many years at the ICR, Richard has identified a great number of cancer susceptibility genes, and made major advances in our understanding of diseases like leukaemia and myeloma. His research is proving valuable in paving the way for new strategies in cancer prevention, and new approaches to treatment. The Royal Society supports both excellence in science and its use for the benefit of humanity – and Richard's research is a great example of both."