Home > People > Gillies McKenna

Gillies McKenna

Professor of Radiation Oncology and Biology


Professor Gillies McKenna graduated in Zoology in 1972 from the University of Edinburgh; he then studied in the US for an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. After postgraduate training at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the US National Cancer Institute, he joined the Faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia in 1987, where he rose to become the Henry K. Pancoast Professor and Chairman of Radiation Oncology.


McKenna’s major research interest is the study of the molecular mechanisms underlying the resistance of some cancers to treatment with radiation or with chemotherapy. In particular, he is interested in developing strategies to render some of the most resistant tumours more sensitive to treatment and is working to bring some of his research discoveries into clinical trial in our area.

McKenna is the recipient of several awards and honors including: a Scholar’s Award from the Radiological Society of North America, a Career Development Award from the American Cancer Society, the Weiss medal from the Association for Radiation Research, the Frank Ellis Medal form The Royal College of Radiologists, and the Röntgen Medal from the Deutches Röntgen Museum, Remscheid, Germany. He was also a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors of the US National Cancer Institute.

Since 2005, he has been the Director of the MRC-Cancer Research UK, Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology, and the Head of the Department of Oncology. McKenna works closely and serves on scientific boards with external funding bodies and partners. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and of the Institute of Biology.