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The IARC Medal of Honour Award 2010


Wednesday 12 May 2010


Professor Julian Peto, who holds a joint appointment at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is today receiving a prestigious World Health Organization (WHO) agency award for his work investigating the causes of cancer.


The Medal of Honour from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is given in recognition of Professor Peto’s work in defining the influence of environmental factors on cancer development, particularly in the workplace.


The dose-response models that Professor Peto developed for asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma have been adopted internationally for occupational and environmental asbestos risk assessment, and he was the first to predict the scale of the continuing mesothelioma epidemic. His other studies on occupational diseases included health risks among workers exposed to mustard gas manufacture, nickel and oil refining and welding. Professor Peto also initiated studies on oral contraceptives and breast cancer, the genetics of breast cancer, the link between human papillomaviruses and cervical cancer and the effectiveness of cervical screening. Alongside his substantial contributions to disease prevention, Professor Peto has furthered the development of better cancer treatments through clinical trials, particularly for childhood leukaemia.


Professor Peto will be giving the seventh Sir Richard Doll Lecture to coincide with his receipt of the 2010 IARC Medal of Honour on 12 May 2010 at the IARC headquarters in Lyon, France.


Professor Peto says: "I am pleased and honoured to receive this prestigious award for my work on asbestos. It is particularly appropriate for my presentation to be named the Sir Richard Doll Lecture. My work on asbestos began when I joined Richard's group in Oxford in 1974, and IARC Day (May 12) will be almost exactly the 55th anniversary of his publication of the first definitive evidence that asbestos is carcinogenic."


ICR Chief Executive Professor Peter Rigby says: "The ICR is delighted to be associated with this award, and proud to have such an eminent scientist working with us."


Last year’s winners of the IARC Medal of Honour were Professor Harald zur Hausen and Professor Nubia Munoz for their work linking cervical cancer with human papillomaviruses. Professor zur Hausen was also the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine recipient.



Media Contact: Science Press Officer Jane Bunce or 0207 153 5106



The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

  • The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research centre
  • The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise
  • The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe
  • The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income, spending 95 pence in every pound of total income directly on research
  • As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction
  • Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organisation in the world

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