Professor Sir Mike Stratton

Discovering unknown causes of cancer

Professor Sir Mike Stratton is a world-renowned cancer biologist, Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Chief Executive Officer of the Wellcome Genome Campus. He is leading a Cancer Grand Challenges Programme to identify preventable causes of cancer.

Professor Stratton’s work over the years has included identifying the BRCA2 gene, which lies behind many cases of breast cancer. This work was carried out by a team including researchers funded by Cancer Research UK’s predecessor, the Cancer Research Campaign. You can read more about the discovery of this gene here.

In 2000, Stratton set up the Cancer Genome Project to systematically search through the whole human genome for mutations involved in cancer, and improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the disease.  He discovered important genetic mutations that contribute to skin cancer, as well as other ground-breaking work to understand how DNA is damaged and repaired in cancer cells.

Professor Stratton’s current project is an international search across 5 continents to identify causes of cancer from their genetic fingerprints. Each cancer carries clues to its causes within its DNA – patterns of changes that show what might have triggered it to start growing out of control. We have already identified around 50 of these patterns, often caused by risk factors like tobacco and ultra-violet (UV) radiation. But we only know what the cause is for around half of them. 

This project will collect samples from 5,000 pancreatic, kidney, oesophageal and bowel cancer patients coming from countries with different levels of these cancers. By comparing the genetic information across these samples and understanding the lifestyles and environments of these patients, we can hope to identify causes of these cancers, and ways to prevent them.

You can read more about the research here.

Professor Stratton is also a Fellow of the Royal Society and was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2013.

All cancer types
Bowel (colorectal) cancer
Breast cancer
Kidney cancer
Oesophageal cancer
Pancreatic cancer
Biomarker research
Cancer biology
Cancer prevention

Wellcome Sanger Institute, Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridgeshire