Dr. Tim Hunt
How do cells grow and divide? Sir Tim Hunt joined Cancer Research UK in 1990, and the charity funded his research until he retired in 2011. His Nobel prize-winning work helped scientists to understand how cells copy themselves – a process that is at the heart of cancer, as well as being central to all life on Earth. Dr Hunt was Head of the Cell Cycle Control Laboratory at our London Research Institute Clare Hall Laboratories for many years. Over this time he has made many important discoveries about the cell cycle, and as a result of his research in the 1980s he shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2001 with Cancer Research UK’s Professor Paul Nurse and US scientist Leland Hartwell. Controlling cell division Cells increase in number by dividing – one cell splits into two ‘daughters’. Cancer develops when cells keep dividing out of control, so research to understand the cell cycle is essential to beating the disease. Dr Hunt spent many years studying the proteins that control cell division, which are called 'cyclin-dependent kinases'. These proteins are made and destroyed in a carefully orchestrated pattern, ensuring that events in the cell cycle happen at the right time and in the right order. But in cancer, the signals that control the pattern go wrong, so cells multiply out of control. Dr Hunt's research has helped to explain what happens in these cells and suggest new ways to treat cancer. Drugs that block proteins involved in the cell cycle are currently being tested in early-stage clinical trials.