November 8, 2012, New York, NY—Peter J. Ratcliffe, MD, an internationally recognized physician scientist who heads the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine at Oxford University was appointed a Member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.
A kidney specialist by training, Ratcliffe has transformed scientists’ understanding of how cells react to oxygen levels. His research focuses on how cells in the body detect how much oxygen is available to them, and especially how they respond to a lack of oxygen. Low oxygen levels – or hypoxia – is an important component of many human diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke, vascular disease and anemia.
“Peter’s stellar accomplishments, his renowned international reputation and his ongoing commitment to excellence in his field will serve Ludwig Oxford well,” said Xin Lu, PhD, director of the Ludwig Institute’s Oxford Branch. “His body of work on the mechanisms by which cells, tissues and organisms respond to hypoxia is simply exceptional and has significant relevance to human cancer.”
His research has great potential for the development of new treatments for cancer and heart disease and paves the way for therapies that manipulate responses to hypoxia, for instance to improve the supply of oxygen to tissues in those patients with diseases of the heart and circulation. Beyond his research, Ratcliffe continues to look after patients in the hospital who will hopefully in time benefit directly as a result of this research.
“Ludwig encourages innovative thinking and allows its scientists to undertake difficult and sometimes speculative research problems. A scientist couldn’t wish for more,” said Ratcliffe.
About Ratcliffe’s research
Oxygen is of fundamental importance for most living organisms and essentially all animal cells possess a similar mechanism for sensing oxygen levels. In humans, and all other large organisms, oxygen must be delivered to all cells in the body in precisely the right amounts. Too little will impair metabolism, too much causes toxicity. Ratcliffe’s research focuses on the question of how organisms sense the amount of oxygen in the environment and how they respond when the amount of oxygen decreases. His laboratory has made major discoveries that form the fundamental basis for understanding the mechanisms by which cells sense and signal hypoxia or low oxygen levels, a common biological stress.
Accordingly, cells have evolved sophisticated signaling pathways that respond to oxygen levels and direct responses that either limit oxygen demand or improve supply as needed. When this circuitry is disrupted, tumors can develop. Ratcliffe is working on ways to better understand these pathways and how they might be manipulated for the treatment of diseases, including cancer.
Ratcliffe is a fellow of the Royal Society and of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). In 2007, Ratcliffe was elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2009 he was awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine. In 2010 he was awarded the Canada Gairdner prize for identification of molecular mechanisms of oxygen sensing in the cell.
About the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
The Ludwig Institute is an international non-profit organization committed to improving the understanding and control of cancer through integrated laboratory and clinical discovery. Leveraging its worldwide network of investigators and the ability to sponsor and conduct its own clinical trials, the Institute is actively engaged in translating its discoveries into applications for patient benefit. Since its establishment in 1971, the Institute has expended more than $1.5 billion on cancer research.