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Lifetime Achievement Prize – Prize winner 2013

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The Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research Prize is awarded to an individual who has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to the fight against cancer, making exceptional advances in the field, who has had a significant and sustained role in furthering our understanding of cancer, or a major impact on the lives of people with cancer.

The 2013 Prize was awarded to Professor Sir Bruce Ponder FRS.

About Bruce Ponder

Sir Bruce was awarded this prize in recognition of both his outstanding contribution to cancer genetics, and for his achievements in creating and developing the cancer research infrastructure in Cambridge.  

The evolution of cancer research in Cambridge is intrinsically linked to Sir Bruce – he has played a fundamental role in establishing both the department of oncology and the CRUK Cambridge Institute.  In addition to this, his own research has been a model for establishing large-scale international collaborations that have set the bar for multicentre studies of cancer genetics.  

From the late 1970s, Bruce was one of the first to see the potential of cancer genetics, and the application of the newly-described RFLPs to map cancer genes by linkage in families.  In 1981 he set up the UK Medullary Thyroid Cancer Group to collect families and tissues with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2 Syndrome, which allowed him to define the age-specific risks and developed clinical guidelines for the management of these families. He identified ret as the predisposing gene in 1993. This was the first example of inherited cancer resulting from a gain of function mutation and the first cancer gene to be identified outside the USA.

In the mid-1980s, Bruce set up the UK Collaborative Group for Breast Cancer Linkage with Nigel Spurr, Tim Bishop, and Doug Easton.  This group was expanded in 1988 to become the International Breast Cancer Linkage Consortium.  Bruce was the first Chairman of the Consortium, which coordinated data from almost every significant group around the world through a series of meetings and publications that would lead eventually to the identification of the BRCA1 gene (by Mark Skolnick) and BRCA2 gene (by Mike Stratton).

Alongside his scientific and clinical achievements, Sir Bruce initiated the creation of new research institutes - the Strangeways Laboratories in 1997 and the Hutchison-MRC Research Centre in 2001 - and worked with colleagues to build the environment and clinical research infrastructure that he saw would be needed for the new Cancer Research Institute which the Imperial Cancer Research Fund had decided to place in Cambridge. The CRUK Cambridge Institute opened in 2007 with Ponder as its inaugural Director.

Sir Bruce’s scientific and leadership contributions have been recognised by Founding Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998, Fellowship of the Royal Society in 2001, the award of a Knighthood ‘for services to medicine and healthcare’ in 2008 and by election as a Founder member of the AACR Academy (2013).  His work has been continuously supported by the Cancer Research Campaign, Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Cancer Research UK since 1973.

Updated: 17 July 2012