'When forced to think about these things, people prioritise research'

December 9, 2005

Cancer researcher Ian Tomlinson has beaten celebrity competition to win a coveted European accolade

It is not every day that a scientist takes on Harry Potter and wins. But Ian Tomlinson, a researcher at Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute, has beaten Harry's creator J. K. Rowling, British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur, champion of Britain's Olympic bid Sebastian Coe, and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel to win a top European achievement award.

The newspaper European Voice last week named Professor Tomlinson Achiever of the Year for his ground-breaking research in cancer genetics.

Nominees were chosen by a panel of European opinion leaders, including three former heads of state, but the winners were selected by the public.

Professor Tomlinson was heartened that in a society in love with celebrity, his research was deemed so important. He said: "When people are forced to think about these things, they do prioritise research over fame. But people often don't want to think about cancer as it isn't always a comfortable thing to consider."

Professor Tomlinson's "Cancergenes" project, on which he collaborated with Auri Aaltonen from Helsinki, has led to the discovery of a number of genes that predispose people to bowel and other cancers. Identifying these genes is key to finding ways to treat the disease. But it is also crucial for identifying people who are at high risk and screening them.

Professor Tomlinson began his research career at Cambridge University, before working at the Imperial Cancer Research Foundation Laboratory and Oxford University.

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