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Tom Curran, PhD

Abramson Cancer Center

Degree and Institution

1974-78 B.Sc. (Hons) Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland; 1978-82 Ph.D. Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories and University College London, London, UK

Faculty Title

Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Administrative Title

Deputy Scientific Director

Research Expertise

Our research addresses the molecular basis of normal and neoplastic growth in the developing nervous system. We hope that by understanding the normal processes that govern formation of the brain we will uncover new approaches for the treatment of rare but very devastating pediatric brain tumors, Research in the laboratory combines basic approaches with genomics and translational science in a broad-based effort. Our experimental strategies include disease models, cell culture, genomics, human tumor samples, imaging and a range of molecular techniques.

Previously, we identified the reelin gene (Reln) whose protein product is a large extracellular protein that controls cell migration and is secreted by several early populations of neurons in the developing brain. We are now examining the molecular events downstream of Reln that mediate its function.

We are taking genomic approaches to identify molecular changes and potential drug targets for several brain tumors including medulloblastoma, atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors and choroid plexus carcinomas. We developed a model system with a 100 percent incidence of spontaneous medulloblastoma for use in translational studies. Recently, we found that a small molecule inhibitor of the sonic hedgehog (Shh) pathway eliminated even large tumor masses in vivo. We are continuing to analyze the mechanism of action of several anticancer drugs in tumor cells and cancer models.

Rotation Projects

Opportunities are available to investigate the response of brain tumors to molecular targeted therapies in genetic mouse models. Opportunities are also available to investigate the molecular control of cell migration in the developing brain and signaling components of the Reelin pathway. Please contact Dr. Curran for available projects.

Other Affiliations
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Penn Genome Frontiers Institute;

1982-1984 Postdoctoral Fellow, Salk Institute, San Diego, CA

Honors and Award

  • 2009, W.W. Sutow Visiting Lecturer in Pediatric Oncology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
  • 2009, Elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM)
  • 2006, 21st Annual Colleen Giblin Memorial Lecture. Columbia University, New York, NY
  • 2006, Marguerite Vogt Lecture Salk Institute, San Diego, CA
  • 2005, Elected to The Royal Society, London, England, UK
  • 2004, LIMA International Award for Excellence in Pediatric Brain Tumor Research, Pediatric Brain Tumor FD, NY, NY
  • 2003, Martin Rodbell Lecture, Raleigh-Durham, NC
  • 2002, Peter M. Steck Memorial Award, Houston, Texas
  • 2001-2009, Javitz Neuroscience Investigator Award, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH
  • 2001-2002, Past President, American Association for Cancer Research
  • 2001, Presidential Address, American Association for Cancer Research, New Orleans, LA
  • 2000, Highly Cited Scientist by Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) in three categories: Neuroscience, Molecular Biology & Genetics, and Microbiology
  • 2000-2001, President, American Association for Cancer Research
  • 2000-2005, National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors
  • 1999-2000, President-Elect, American Association for Cancer Research
  • 1998, Wellcome Visiting Professorship, Houston, Texas
  • 1997, Dische Lecture, Columbia University, New York, NY
  • 1997, Nobel Symposium, Towards an Understanding of Integrative Brain Function, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 1997, Wei Lun Visiting Professor Lecture, Hong Kong
  • 1995, Louis D'Agrossa Memorial Lecture, St. Louis University Medical Center
  • 1994, Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
  • Litchfield Lecture, Oxford University, UK
  • 1994, Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1994, Golgi Award, Italian Academy of Neuroscience and the Camillo Golgi Foundation, Brescia, Italy
  • 1993, Ranked 4th among High Impact Researchers in Molecular Biology and Genetics, 1988-92, Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)
  • 1993, American Association for Cancer Research, for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research Award
  • 1992, Distinguished Lectures in Neuroscience, Northwestern University, IL
  • Tenovus-Scotland Medal, Glasgow University, Scotland
  • 1992, Invited Speak from Abroad, Fuji Hormone Conference, Hakone, Japan
  • 1992, Passano Foundation Young Scientist Award
  • 1992, Rita Levi Montalcini Award in Neurosciences
  • 1992, Merck Lecture, Purdue University, School of Pharmacy
  • 1991, The Merton F. Utter Memorial Lecture, Case Western University
  • 1989, Special Plenary Lecture, Neurosciences meeting, Phoenix, Arizona
  • 1988, Rockefeller University Distinguished Speaker Series, New York, NY
  • 1982-1984, Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund Fellowship
  • 1978, First-class honors degree in Biological Sciences, Edinburgh University
  • 1978, Ashworth prize in Zoology, Edinburgh University


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Contact Information

Tom Curran, Ph.D., FRS
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute
Colket Translational Research Building
Room 4060
3501 Civic Center Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4318
Office Phone: 267-426-2819
Fax: 267-426-2791

Dianne Settles
Office Phone: 267-426-2792
Appointment Phone: 267-426-2792
Fax: 267-426-2791