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Cancer Cell Biologist Named Integrative Biology Chair
An international authority on a family of intracellular proteins linked to cancer, John Hancock, Ph.D., has been named chairman of the Department of Integrative Biology & Pharmacology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. He started his new role in July.
"Dr. Hancock brings great experience to our school and a highly relevant area of research," said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., dean of the UT Medical School at Houston. "I am confident that he will be a strong leader and an outstanding mentor."
Hancock succeeds interim chairman Norman W. Weisbrodt, Ph.D.
"Research in the department is directed at the cell biology, physiology and pharmacology of cell regulation and cell signaling," Hancock said. "Basically, we are interested in how cells communicate with one another, and how this communication goes wrong in disease states. Major research themes include the molecular mechanisms of membrane signaling, metabolic regulation and neuronal signal transduction. These efforts are directed at understanding how normal and abnormal cell function translates into whole animal physiology and pathology. A special focus is given to cancer biology, inflammation, cardiovascular biology and metabolic dysfunction."
Hancock has been at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia since 1995 and most recently served as the deputy director of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), one of Australia's flagship biomedical research institutes.
"Dr. Hancock's future research, which will involve integrating the latest in molecular biology and imaging technology, promises to make seminal contributions to our understanding of cancer biology and pharmacology," said Stanley G. Schultz, M.D., professor, associate dean for Institutional Advancement and Fondren Chair in Cellular Signaling at the Medical School. Schultz is a former department chair and on faculty at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
Hancock hopes to one day target certain cancers by inhibiting the activity of Ras proteins. "In normal cells, Ras proteins switch on and off. In cancer cells, Ras proteins are often locked in an on-state and trigger uncontrolled cell division. The challenge therefore is to neutralize these defective Ras proteins, which play a major role in some 50 percent of colon cancers and 95 percent of pancreatic cancers," he said.
Hancock received his M.B. (Bachelor of Medicine) and B.Chir. (Bachelor of Surgery) from the University of Cambridge and his Ph.D. from the University of London. Following medical and surgical internships as a house physician and a house surgeon at St. Thomas' Hospital Medical School, he entered the U.S. equivalent of a two-year medical residency rotation through major London teaching hospitals, obtaining general medical training in cardiology, neurology, hematology, oncology and intensive care. He then specialized in hematology at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
By Rob Cahill, Institutional Advancement
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