Onur Pinar / Wellcome Sanger Institute

Sam Behjati recognised for advancing knowledge of childhood cancers

Professor Behjati, a paediatrician scientist, has been awarded the 2023 Foulkes Foundation Academy of Medical Sciences Medal in recognition of his pioneering work in understanding and diagnosis of childhood cancers.

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The Wellcome Sanger Institute is delighted that Professor Sam Behjati has today (1 Nov) won the 2023 Foulkes Foundation Academy of Medical Sciences Medal.

The award recognises his impactful work in transforming our understanding of how childhood cancers develop and for delivering state-of-the-art cancer diagnostics for children throughout the UK.

Sam, a practising consultant, leads a research group at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and is a Clinical Professor of Paediatric Oncology at the University of Cambridge.

In his clinical research role, Sam ensures that every child with a solid tumour in the region can have a whole genome sequencing test. This provides patients with a quicker and more precise diagnosis and more targeted therapies than other methods, which enables the clinical team to provide tailored treatment to each child.

At the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Sam’s research is unravelling the identity and origin of cancer cells, specifically childhood cancer, with the aim of finding new ways of diagnosing and treating cancer, and identifying those at high risk of developing the disease.

He uses cutting edge genetic and data analysis techniques to understand normal human development at a cellular level and how changes in cell DNA drive cancer growth and survival, deepening our understanding of how cancer develops and progresses.

Initially, Sam’s work focused on the childhood kidney cancer, Wilms tumour, but his approach of comparing cancer cells to normal cells provides a blueprint for unlocking the origins of childhood cancers more generally, and even other diseases. Recently, his team used the same method to study the development of placental tissue and their findings could improve our understanding of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia.

“I am most delighted and honoured to receive the Foulkes Medal as a recognition of not only my science, but of my wonderful team, colleagues, and collaborators who enable my work. I would also like to acknowledge the generosity of participating children and families – without them my research would not be possible.”

Professor Sam Behjati, Group Leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, practising consultant and a Clinical Professor of Paediatric Oncology at the University of Cambridge

“It gives me great pleasure to present the 2023 Foulkes Foundation Academy of Medical Sciences Medal to Professor Sam Behjati for his impactful work on improving our understanding and diagnosis of childhood cancer. Sam is working at the forefront of how we can use genetics to increase our knowledge of childhood cancers and how they develop, which is bringing direct benefits into the clinic. He epitomises the ethos of the Foundation by marrying science and medicine for the benefit of mankind, and we look forward to welcoming him into our “family” of Fellows.”

Mrs Maureen Foulkes-Hajdu, Executive Chairman of the Foulkes Foundation

“The Medal recognises outstanding achievements of innovative biomedical researchers in the early years of their career. This year’s winner, Professor Sam Behjati, demonstrates the real value and positive impact that clinical researchers have on the lives of patients while also advancing the field of biomedical research. His depth of knowledge of childhood cancer and how this translates into more personalised treatments for his patients is inspirational and I congratulate him on this richly deserved award.”

Professor Paul Stewart FMedSci, Acting President of the Academy of Medical Science

Professor Sam Behjati will receive the Medal, along with a monetary award, at the Academy of Medical Sciences’ Annual General Meeting on 5 December 2023 where he will also deliver a lecture.

More information

The Foulkes Foundation Academy of Medical Sciences Medal

The Foulkes Foundation Academy of Medical Sciences Medal is awarded biennially to a rising star within biomedical research for contributing important and significant impacts to the field before, or in, their first independent position. The Foulkes Foundation was established in 1972 by Dr Ernest Foulkes CBE HonMD HonFRCP, with the aim of promoting medical research, the training of scientists and the study of medicine. The Foulkes Foundation Medal has been awarded biennially since 2007.


The Academy of Medical Sciences

The Academy of Medical Sciences is the independent, expert voice of biomedical and health research in the UK. Our Fellowship comprises the most influential scientists in the UK and worldwide, drawn from the NHS, academia, industry, and the public service. Our mission is to improve the health of people everywhere by creating an open and progressive research sector. We do this by working with patients and the public to influence policy and biomedical practice, strengthening UK biomedical and health research, supporting the next generation of researchers through funding and career development opportunities, and working with partners globally.