Karen Vousden is a cancer researcher who studies the tumour suppressor protein p53. Karen showed that p53 prevents cancer cells from proliferating and drives them to self-destruct, whilst protecting healthy cells from minor levels of DNA damage. Defects in the p53 mechanism are associated with a wide range of cancers, and her findings have led to new routes for therapy.
Karen discovered a failsafe mechanism relating p53 to another tumour suppressor called retinoblastoma (RB) protein: when RB stops working, p53 is turned on to prevent tumour growth. She also uncovered the signalling pathway through which p53 induces cells to destroy themselves — a process known as apoptosis.
She has worked with chemists to find inhibitors of Mdm2, a protein that marks p53 for destruction, which could reactivate p53 in tumours. Karen gave the Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Memorial Lecture of the Biochemical Society in 2008, and was appointed CBE in the 2010 New Year Honours.
Chief Scientist, Cancer Research UK Senior Group Leader, The Francis Crick Institute Senior Group Leader, The Francis Crick Institute
Interest and expertise
Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
Biochemistry and molecular biology, Cell biology (incl molecular cell biology)