Cancer experts join re-established medical school

Wednesday 26 November 2003

Leading cancer specialists from across the UK have joined the University of St Andrews – further strengthening the University’s growth as a citadel of medical research and teaching.

Three Professors with wide-ranging expertise in the disease will be formally inducted at the St Andrew’s Day Graduations this week (Friday 28th November, 2003) and will pave the way for future important cancer studies.

The new positions span a wide range of interests in cancer from how cancer develops to how patients react to treatment. The University currently has a number of important leading cancer studies and the new appointments underpin the major research interest of the Bute Medical School.

The three new Professors are Gerry Humphris, Andrew Riches and Simon Herrington. Their main research interests are orofacial cancer, cancer predisposition and cervical cancer respectively.

Professors Humphris and Herrington join Professor Riches at the Bute Medical School, which was established last year. Both new recruits were attracted to St Andrews because of the strong collaborative links between schools developed for interdisciplinary research and with strong links to the National Health Service.

The University of St Andrews appointed a Dean of Medicine, Professor Hugh MacDougall, just one year ago. Professor MacDougall, a leading cancer specialist, was given the task of transforming the University of St Andrews’ contribution to medical education and research. In a short space of time, the University has re-established its Faculty of Medicine and the MD degree which was relinquished in 1966. Since the re-establishment of the Medical School, the University hopes to maintain its strong reputation for excellence in medical research and teaching.

Professor MacDougall said “These three new outstanding appointments mark a renaissance in cancer research in St Andrews and provide a major boost to medical teaching”.

Professor Humphris holds the new Chair of Health Psychology at St Andrews. He arrived this month from the University of Manchester where he was a Reader at the School of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science, and Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist to the Central Manchester Health Care Trust.

He is interested in the psychological aspects of oral health including dental phobia, chronic facial pain and oral cancer. He has completed a controlled trial of a new intervention specifically designed for patients following treatment of orofacial cancer. The association of mental health status and various functions of the face following initial treatment, and the psychological effects of providing information about oral cancer to patients are his current fields of interest.

In addition to this work, Professor Humphris receives funding from CR-UK (a principal cancer charity) to study fears of recurrence and psychological distress in head and neck cancer patients. This work is part of a major European study (ARCAGE) to understand the causative factors responsible for this disease. He has collaborative links with McGill Medical School in Montreal and University of Helsinki in Finland, and hopes to expand his work on the psychological response of patients to diagnosis and treatment. A major part of this work will be to investigate the role of communication between staff, patients and carers.

Professor Riches has been at St. Andrews since 1974 when he joined as a lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Experimental Pathology and subsequently was promoted to Senior Lecturer and now to the Chair of Experimental Pathology. He is currently Deputy Head of the Bute Medical School. His previous research has focussed on understanding how cell proliferation in the body is controlled in normal tissues and in cancer.

Professor Riches’ current work has involved collaborations in Europe as part of the Nuclear Fission Safety Programme, which includes laboratories in Germany, France, Finland and Spain. Collaborations with the group in Germany have involved the culture of tumour cells from the thyroid tumours induced in children from Belarus following the Chernobyl accident.

He is currently collaborating with Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital in studies on cancer predisposition in women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer. He is also currently collaborating with the School of Physics and Astronomy and Ninewells Hospital’s Department of Surgery and Molecular Oncology in the £1m SHEFC-funded Interdisciplinary Centre for Medical Photonics. The centre has been established to exploit novel advanced optical techniques to study disease processes.

Professor Herrington joined the University this summer as Professor of Pathology in the Bute Medical School from the University of Liverpool where he held the Chair of Pathology. He is also an honorary consultant pathologist to Tayside University Hospitals NHS Trust, based at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

His research work has focussed, since 1988, on the relationship between infection with human papillomaviruses (HPV, wart viruses) and the development of cervical cancer (cancer of the neck of the womb). This involves analysis of both the effects of the virus on cells grown in the laboratory and the part played by the virus in the development of lesions in patients. He is involved internationally in papillomavirus research, with collaborations involving the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands and the University of Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

Professor Herrington hopes to forge strong collaborative links with other University Schools, particularly Biomolecular Sciences within the School of Biology, and the School of Physics and Astronomy, with which he is currently developing a collaborative project.

The three Professors will be inducted on Friday 28th November, 2003 at the Younger Hall, St Andrews.


Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected] Ref: new Profs cancer pr 251103 View the latest University news at

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