Professor David Timothy Bishop

Professor David Timothy Bishop

Director, Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology, Head, Section of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, LICAP

0113 206 4573

Summary: I lead the Epidemiology and Biostatistics section, and the Testicular and Bowel Cancer Genetic Epidemiology groups.

Location: Cancer Genetics Building

Teaching Commitments: Contributing lectures to BIOC3900 and the MSc in Statistical Epidemiology


My research involves cancer with a particular focus on melanoma, colorectal cancer and testis cancer.

I trained in mathematics and statistics and during the course of my PhD developed an interest in the role of genetics, initially focussing on population genetics and the evolution of behaviours. I moved to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City for a post doc within a genetics group interested in the development of biostatistical techniques to investigate the aggregation of disease among related individuals. These studies involved the Mormon settlers in Utah who as part of their religious activities record accurate genealogies which are maintained by the Church. Our research focussed on linking together the population records of these Mormon families together with health records and in particular cancer registration records and death certificates maintained by the Division of Health of the State. These techniques confirmed that relatives of individuals with a particular disease, notably cancer have increased risk of that same cancer but there were differences by the anatomical site of that cancer.

In my early career in Utah, the capabilities of identifying genetic variation in humans using recombinant DNA technology became possible and the University of Utah was one of the major sites in which such research occurred. We documented how such variability could be assessed in the laboratory using gels (‘restriction fragment length polymorphisms’) and showed the statistical approach by which a genome map could be produced. We then investigated how such maps could be used to facilitate the approach to identifying the genetic determinants of susceptibility for families in which there was strong evidence of a dominantly inherited susceptibility. During the 1980s we applied these approaches to try and identify genes for breast cancer and colorectal cancer but the rudimentary maps and the complexity of the inheritance meant that there was no notable success.

In 1999 I moved to the University of Leeds employed by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK) to head a research group in genetic epidemiology with the same focus of identifying genes responsible for cancer susceptibility. The improved maps and technologies meant that during the early 1990s and subsequently there was rapid progress and we were heavily involved in the mapping and identification of genes for breast cancer and colorectal cancer. We documented through various collaborations the contribution of these genes to susceptibility and estimated the risks of cancer among those carrying these mutations.

More recently the interest has been in identifying the joint effects of genes and exposures (eg. dietary) which modify a person’s risk of developing cancer.