Charles SWANTON, of British nationality, is awarded the 2024 Jeantet-Collen Prize for Translational Medicine for his groundbreaking discoveries in cancer genetics and evolution, leading to insights into how tumours evolve, spread, and develop resistance to drugs.
Charles Swanton completed his MD-PhD in 1999 at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories and his Cancer Research UK (CRUK) clinician scientist/medical oncology training in 2008. Since 2013 he has been Principal Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute in London and has recently taken on the role of Deputy Clinical Director. He was appointed Chair in Personalised Medicine at University College London Cancer Institute and Consultant Thoracic Medical Oncologist at University College London Hospitals in 2011. He is the Chief Investigator of the CRUK TRACERx lung cancer evolution study and co-directs the CRUK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, and in 2017 – he was appointed CRUK’s Chief Clinician.
Charles Swanton was elected as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in 2017 and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018. Throughout his career, he has been honoured with awards and recognitions, including the Memorial Sloan Kettering Paul Marks Prize (2021), the Massachusetts General Hospital Kraft Prize for cancer research (2018) and the San Salvatore Prize for cancer research (2017). He was appointed Napier Professor in Cancer by the Royal Society in 2016.
Order and chaos in cancer evolution and immune surveillance
Cancer is a highly dynamic disease. During its course, cancers respond to selective pressures from their microenvironment, including the immune system, chemotherapy, nutrient deprivation, and geographic barriers. These selective pressures shape the evolutionary trajectory of the tumour leading to an extreme genetic heterogeneity not only within individual tumours, but also across tumour types, primary and secondary. Cancer heterogeneity provides the fuel for resistance and introduces significant challenges in designing effective treatment strategies.
Charles Swanton has changed the way the world understands cancer by careful and impactful demonstrations of cancer as an evolutionary process: cancer proceeds by Darwinian variation and selection of competitive cell clones. He has demonstrated that branched evolution of cancer is ubiquitous; deciphered how it is shaped by genome instability, therapy and immunity, and how this can be exploited for therapy. He has also shown how inflammatory mechanisms can drive cancer initiation. He has discovered functional mechanisms driving cancer chromosomal instability and somatic mutagenesis and developed insights into mechanisms of cancer immune surveillance and evasion.
Charles Swanton is the Chief Investigator of the CRUK TRACERx lung cancer evolution study, a major collaboration integrating clinical, histopathological and genomic data from 842 patients with lung cancer. The study has defined how cancer clonal heterogeneity affects the risk of recurrence and survival, and how cancer subclones compete, adapt and evolve from diagnosis to relapse. His evolutionary insights have led to the identification of biomarkers to recognise minimal residual disease and to clinical trials using adoptive T cell therapeutics targeting clonal neoantigens.