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Professor Dot Bennett

Professor of Cell Biology
Research Professor

Professor Bennett's research interests are in cell senescence (programmed permanent arrest of cell proliferation, which links ageing and cancer), and the genetics of melanoma and other pigmentary skin conditions.   

She recently stepped down as Director of the Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute at St George's, to spend more time on research and writing.

Professor Bennett was Director of the MCS Institute from 2016-2022 and has been Professor of Cell Biology since 1999.  She was Head of the Cell Biology and Genetics Research Centre from 2014-2016.  She entered St George’s in 1983, originally as a full-time researcher and group leader funded by the Cancer Research Campaign, joining the academic staff in 1987.

Before that she held an Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) postdoctoral fellowship with JA Smith at the London ICRF Laboratories, and a Damon Runyon Fellowship with Professor R Dulbecco at the Salk Institute, California.

She graduated with an MA (Natural Sciences) from King’s College, Cambridge, and a PhD (1975) from the London ICRF Laboratories/King’s College London.

Professor Bennett is Past President and founder of the International Cell Senescence Association (ICSA), Past President of both the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies and the European Society for Pigment Cell Research (ESPCR) and a member of the European Vitiligo Task Force and various scientific societies. 

She is the author of over 160 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including senior authorship of a book, “The Colors of Mice, a Model Genetic Network” (Wiley, 2010).  She is a member of the International Expert Panel for the French Government’s National Research Agency (ANR) and INSERM (since 2006), and a member of the International Scientific Board of ARIV Onlus, the Italian Vitiligo Association (since 2007).  She was a member of a subpanel for the UK's 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

Recent honours include: ICSA Award for Outstanding Contribution (2021); Entry in Who’s Who (2019); Fellowship of the Academic of Medical Sciences (FMedSci, 2017), the Fritz Anders Memorial Lecture and Medal (2015), and the Estela Medrano Memorial Award (2013).

Professor Bennett’s research interests are in cell senescence (programmed permanent arrest of cell proliferation, which links ageing and cancer), and genetics of melanoma and other pigmentary skin conditions.

Her research group has focused on the genetics of pigmentary disorders, especially melanoma (pigmented skin cancer), a common, rapidly progressing and highly malignant cancer.  Studying skin moles (naevi), they were one of the first groups to demonstrate (2006) that senescence is an anti-cancer defence: arrested, benign tumours contain senescent cells and cancer cells escape from this arrest through common genetic changes. 

Normal cells become senescent after dividing a limited number of times.  Senescent cells are permanently non-dividing, but still alive, as in skin moles.  Cancers grow only when cells mutate and escape from this senescence.  The commonest gene that is mutated in familial melanoma, CDKN2A, functions to arrest cells in senescence.  Various other melanoma genes are also proving to be connected to cell senescence.

In another recent project the group investigated whether novel and known markers of melanocyte senescence can help distinguish melanomas from moles.  Such markers might also help predict who will develop two or more melanomas.

Professor Bennett and colleagues are also interested in the role of cell senescence in ageing, and the potential of this understanding to inform the development of new treatments for symptoms and diseases of ageing.

Professor Bennett collaborates with Elena Sviderskaya and Philip Goff to maintain the Wellcome Trust Functional Genomics Cell Bank, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The Bank holds more than 250 immortal lines of mammalian cells, especially melanocytes with pigmentary mutations.  

The Bank provides cells to institutions around the world, helping the understanding of many inherited disorders of pigmentation such as albinism and Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome.


DCB ResearcherID page



Selected publications (of 165 peer-reviewed)
h-index 64 (Web of Science core), 77 (Google Scholar)

  1. Bennett, DC (2024). Review: Are moles senescent? Pigm. Cell Melanoma Res. doi: 10.1111/pcmr.13163 (online early.)
  2. Soo JK, JT Castle & DC Bennett (2023).  Preferential killing of melanoma cells by a p16-related peptide.  Biol. Open, 12(8): bio059965.  doi:10.1242/bio.059965
  3. Bowman SL, L Le, Y Zhu, DC Harper, A Sitaram, A Theos, EV Sviderskaya, DC Bennett, G Raposo, DJ Owen, MK Dennis & MS Marks (2021).  A BLOC-1:AP-3 super-complex sorts a cis-SNARE complex into endosome-derived tubular transport carriers.  J. Cell Biol. 220, e202005173. doi: 10.1083/jcb.202005173.
  4. Gorgoulis V, P Adams, A Alimonti, DC Bennett, O Bischof, C Bishop, J Campisi, M Collado, K Evangelou, G Ferbeyre, J Gil, E Hara, V Krizhanovsky, D Jurk, A Maier, M Narita, L Niedernhofer, JF Passos, PD Robbins, CA Schmitt, J Sedivy, K Vougas, T von Zglinicki, D Zhou, M Serrano & M Demaria (2019).  Cellular senescence: defining a path forward. Cell, 179, 813-27.
  5. Kohli JS, E Tolomio, S Frigerio, A Maurichi, M Rodolfo & DC Bennett (2017). Common delayed senescence of melanocytes from multiple primary melanoma patients. J. Inv. Dermatol. 137, 766-8.
  6. Kohli JS, H Mir, A Wasif, H Chong, V Akhras, R Kumar, E Nagore & DC Bennett (2017). ETS1, nucleolar and non-nucleolar TERT expression in nevus to melanoma progression. Oncotarget 8, 104408-17.
  7. Bennett DC (2016).  Genetics of melanoma progression: the rise and fall of cell senescence.  Pigm. Cell Melanoma Res. 29, 122-40.
  8. Sadaie M, R Salama, T Carroll, K Tomimatsu, T Chandra, ARJ Young, M Narita, PA Pérez-Mancera, DC Bennett, H Chong, H Kimura & M Narita (2013).  Redistribution of the Lamin B1 genomic binding profile affects rearrangement of heterochromatic domains and SAHF formation during senescence. Genes Dev. 27, 1800-1808.
  9. Jin Y, SA Birlea, PR Fain, K Gowan, SL Riccardi, PJ Holland, CM Mailloux, AJD Sufit, SM Hutton, A Amadi-Myers, DC Bennett, MR Wallace, WT McCormack, EH Kemp, DJ Gawkrodger, AP Weetman, M Picardo, G Leone, A Taïeb, T Jouary, K Ezzedine, N van Geel, J Lambert, A Overbeck & RA Spritz (2010).  Variant of TYR and autoimmunity susceptibility loci in generalized vitiligo. New Engl. J. Med. 362, 1686-1697.
  10. Gray-Schopfer VC, SC Cheong, H Chong, J Chow, A Moss, ZA Abdel-Malek, R Marais, D Wynford-Thomas & DC Bennett (2006).  Cellular senescence in naevi and immortalisation in melanoma: a role for p16?  Br. J. Cancer. 95, 496-505.
  11. Sviderskaya EV, VC Gray-Schopfer, SP Hill, NP Smit, TJ Evans-Whipp, J Bond, L Hill, V Bataille, G Peters, D Kipling, D Wynford-Thomas & DC Bennett (2003).  p16/cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A deficiency in human melanocyte senescence, apoptosis and immortalization: possible implications for melanoma progression. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 95, 723-732.
  12. Sviderskaya EV, SP Hill, TJ Evans-Whipp, L Chin, SJ Orlow, DJ Easty, SC Cheong, D Beach, RA DePinho & DC Bennett (2002). p16Ink4a in melanocyte senescence and differentiation. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 94, 446‑454.
  13. Bennett DC, PJ Cooper & IR Hart (1987).  A line of non-tumorigenic mouse melanocytes, syngeneic with the B16 melanoma and requiring a tumour promoter for growth.  Int. J. Cancer 39, 414‑418.
  14. Bennett DC, LA Peachey, H Durbin & PS Rudland (1978). A possible mammary stem cell line. Cell 15, 283‑298.



Phosphorylation of melanoma suppressor p16 (CDKN2A) in regulation of its function, properties and diagnostic value. 
DC Bennett (PI), with A Chikh, SGUL (Co-I) and C Bishop, QMUL (collaborator).  
St George’s NHS Trust Charity, Melanoma Foundation.  2023-2024.

The Functional Genomics Cell Bank at St George’s
Program grant to EV Sviderskaya (SGUL) (PI) with DC Bennett (Co-I).
Wellcome Trust, 2015-2021

Validation of non-nucleolar TERT as a melanoma prognostic marker
DC Bennett (PI) with V Akhras (SGH Trust) (co-investigator)
SGUL Impact and Innovation Awards

Reversible inhibition of p16-mediated cellular senescence to alleviate ageing symptoms
Awarded to DC Bennett (PI) with TJ Shaw (King's College London) (co-supervisor)
Age UK: PhD studentship

Other main funding has been from Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, the EC, the Emma Rouge Melanoma Foundation (Italy) and the MRC.

Main external collaborations in recent years have been with:

Professor Cleo Bishop, Queen Mary, University of London

Drs Andrea Maurichi and Monica Rodolfo, National Cancer Institute, Milan, Italy

Professor Rajiv Kumar, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany

Dr Michael Marks, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, USA

Dr Masashi Narita, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, University of Cambridge

 Professor Richard Spritz , University of Colorado, Denver, USA

Dr Tanya Shaw, King's College, London

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