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Professor Dot Bennett

Professor of Cell Biology
Director, Molecular & Clinical Sciences Research Institute

Professor Bennett is the Director of the Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute at St George's. 

Her 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.

Professor Bennett has been Director of the MCS Institute since 2016 and 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), a Board member and former President of the European Society for Pigment Cell Research (ESPCR) and a member of the European Vitiligo Task Force.  She is a former President of the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies.

She is the author of over 160 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).

Recent honours include: 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


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The Functional Genomics Cell Bank at St George’s
Program grant awarded to DC Bennett (co-investigator) with EV Sviderskaya (SGUL) (PI)
Wellcome Trust, 2015 to 2020


Validation of non-nucleolar TERT as a melanoma prognostic marker
Awarded to DC Bennett (PI) with V Akhras (SGH Trust) (co-investigator)
SGUL Impact and Innovation Awards
2015 to 2016

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
2013 to 2015

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

Main collaborations in recent years have been with:

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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