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Worldwide Cancer Research lauds Macara’s contributions

Jul. 30, 2015, 9:30 AM

Ian Macara, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, recently returned from Scotland, where he received this year’s Colin Thomson Memorial Medal for his contributions to cancer research.

Ian Macara, Ph.D.

The medal, sponsored by Worldwide Cancer Research, is awarded at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow to a scientist in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of cancer research. It has been given each year since 2007.

Worldwide Cancer Research has funded nearly 2,000 research projects around the world since its establishment by Colin Thomson in 1979.

“Dr. Thomson’s efforts in supporting cancer research are truly inspiring and it’s a great and unexpected honor to have been chosen to present the Colin Thomson Memorial Keynote lecture this year,” said Macara, who is also Louise B. McGavock Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology. “I am humbled to have been selected for this recognition and by the remarkable list of truly outstanding cancer biologists who have given the memorial lecture in years past.”

For the past decade Macara, who is the author of more than 160 research publications, has focused on the role of cell polarity in cancer. Cells need to be able to sense the direction they are facing, in essence, which segment of the cell is facing outside the tissue and which part is facing inside. This spatial awareness, or ability to sense direction, enables cells to arrange their internal components in an appropriate fashion.

Macara and his colleagues have demonstrated that loss of polarity in epithelial cells increases tumor growth and metastasis in a mouse model of breast cancer. He is currently studying the role of polarity in mammary stem cells and cancer stem cells.

Macara was named chair of Cell and Developmental Biology in 2012. Prior to that, he served as Harrison Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and director of the Advanced Microscopy Facility with UVA’s Center for Cell Signaling. He is a senior editor of the Journal of Cell Biology and serves on the council of the American Society for Cell Biology.

Macara received his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Sheffield, U.K. He underwent postdoctoral training at Brandies University and Harvard University and was a Miller Visiting Professor at the University of California Berkeley in 1997.

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