2012 Medal Lecture

2012 Medal Lecture

Prof Kevin Ryan, Beatson Institute for Cancer Research

Biography
Kevin Ryan originates from England where he obtained a BSc in Biochemistry from The University of Liverpool.  He then continued his studies at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research where he was awarded a PhD by the University of Glasgow in 1996.  Following post-doctoral work at the US National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Maryland, he was awarded a Cancer Research UK Senior Cancer Research Fellowship in 2002 and he returned to the Beatson to establish his own research group.  In 2007, he was promoted to top Senior Group Leader at the Beatson Institute and later that year was appointed Professor of Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Glasgow. Kevin’s studies focus on the identification of cell death regulators involved in tumour development and tumour therapy, with particular focus on how the apoptotic and autophagic pathways integrate to determine cell fate. In 2010, he was awarded the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) ‘Cancer Researcher Award’ for his work in this area.

Lecture Summary

Autophagy in Cell Death and Cancer
Inactivation of cell death pathways is a central component of c‌ancer progression.  Various mechanisms exist in normal cells to invoke cell death and eradicate cells that may otherwise form a tumor.  Classically, studies of cell death have focused on apoptosis.  It is now clear, however, that cell viability is also regulated by autophagy.  ‎In contrast to apoptosis there appear to be context specific aspects of autophagy with respect to death, with reported involvement in both cell death and cell survival.  More recently, studies have shown that there is also cross-talk between the apoptosis and autophagy pathways in the determination of tumor cell death and therapeutic response.  It seems conceivable therefore, that identification and investigation of the factors controlling apoptosis and autophagy will lead to insights into cell death regulation during tumor development, and may also reveal novel targets for therapeutic intervention.  In this regard, we have undertaken a number of screens to identify apoptotic and autophagic regulators.  The mechanism of action and context-specific nature of a number of these factors were described and the potential implications with respect to tumor development and cancer therapy were discussed.