Bruce Ponder is an oncologist whose work centres on genetics and cancer risk. Bruce was the first to identify a specific gene linked to cancer — the MEN2 gene — which causes a form of thyroid cancer. He also helped to identify the breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which lead to around 5 per cent of breast cancer cases and are implicated in ovarian, bowel and prostate cancers.
Bruce is now looking into genes that in isolation have a lesser effect on cancer cases, but significantly increase risk when they work together. Bruce calls this a ‘polygenic model’ and likens it to being dealt a hand of cards at birth. The complement of ‘cards’ received determines an individual’s underlying cancer risk, with hundreds of gene variations each having a small impact upon risk.
Bruce is also investigating genetic differences in how the airway lining reacts to cigarette smoke as part of efforts to explain why some smokers get lung cancer and others do not. He was awarded a knighthood for services to medicine in 2008.
Interest and expertise
Health and human sciences
lung, inherited risk, genetics, smoking, cancer, breast