Putting our region's cancer needs first

Prof Ian Prior

Ian Prior is the NWCR Professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Liverpool.

Prof Ian Prior

Q: How long have you been a scientist?

A: I initially didn’t know that I wanted to be a scientist or work in the field of cancer research. I did a degree in Zoology at Newcastle University as this had been a passion from an early age. I then spent a year working in a yoghurt factory to earn some money and I funded myself through a Masters in Toxicology in London which cemented by desire to be involved in lab-based science. From 1995 to 1998 I did a PhD in Physiology in Liverpool before going to Brisbane to do my Post Doctorate. I came back to Liverpool to start in the lab here in 2003.


Q: What is your role?

A: I lead a group of researchers – scientists and students – in Liverpool and our work is focused on the Ras gene which is the most frequently mutated gene found in cancer.


Q: What are you currently working on?

A: Mutations of the Ras gene are present in virtually all cancer types, in particular pancreatic, lung and colon. For many years work has been ongoing to try to inhibit or stop the effects of mutant Ras in the cancer cells, but it has been very difficult to target this successfully. Our work now is using modern science and technology such as gene editing to go back to examine the Ras gene to challenge our previous knowledge of how it works. By rethinking our knowledge of this gene we can learn more about how to disrupt it, and stop the effects of Ras mutations leading to some of the most serious cancers. So on the one hand we are going back to look at this gene more closely, but we are using modern science and technology to help improve our understanding.


Q: What drives you in your job?

A: I want to provide new insights that help my colleagues to develop new treatments to target Ras. In science, we are exploring the unknown and this is very exciting. It also means that we don’t always know the right route to take to make progress and so it can be a frustrating process. But the excitement of what we can discover in our work drives me every single day. I also work with five PhD students who are eager and passionate about science and about our work. Helping them to become the best they can possibly be is a key driver for me in this role.


Q: What do you do outside the lab?

A: I have a family with two teenage children, who keep me busy when I’m not in the lab. I have also recently taken up digital drawing on my iPad, and this is a really helpful release because, even though I failed art at school, digital drawing is quite forgiving, and it’s a complete break from my work in the lab. I also enjoy going to watch Warrington play rugby.

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