Dr. Curran, a native of Scotland who enjoys dual, U.K./U.S. citizenship, is chairman of the department of developmental neurobiology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. He served the American Association for Cancer Research as president in 2000. His research focuses on molecular events that control the formation of the brain in mammals, and has shown that deregulated gene expression is a critical factor in the development and progression of cancer.
Early in his career, Dr. Curran discovered the fos oncogene and demonstrated its function in gene regulation. He then illustrated how the activity of nerves in the brain can affect the function of fos. This groundbreaking discovery helped open a new field of study key to explaining how changes in gene activity result in alterations in learning and memory. It was recognized by the AACR in 1993, when Dr. Curran received the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research, given annually to an accomplished young investigator in the field who is no more than 40 years old at the time the award is conferred.
His subsequent study of a gene called Reelin led to important new insights into how nerve cells in the developing brain migrate to their final locations to form orderly layers.
More recently, Dr. Curran has linked his interest in brain development to the studies of the molecular basis of cancer. Based on this work, he pioneered laboratory studies of a novel molecule called HhAntag to treat brain cancer without the need for traditional chemotherapy or radiation.