Centre for Cancer & Inflammation
Our centre focuses on the links between cancer and inflammation. The overarching hypothesis that drives our research is that the inflammatory mediators and cells found in cancer are more likely to enhance than inhibit tumour progression; hence modulating these cells and mediators should be of therapeutic benefit.
Our aim is to translate our laboratory research in chronic inflammation and the tumour microenvironment into new treatments for cancer, especially ovarian and pancreatic cancer. We have been involved in several Phase I and Phase II clinical trials of cytokine antagonists and are currently planning other trials involving novel targets in the cancer microenvironment.
We also have a strong commitment to public engagement via the University's Centre of the Cell, an innovative and successful science centre and science outreach project for young people.
Group Leaders in the Centre
Dr Esther Castellano-Sanchez Early Career Researcher - Lecturer
Dr Daniela Loessner Reader in Bioengineering and Cancer
Dr Oliver M Pearce Lecturer
Dr David Propper Senior Lecturer
Life in the Centre
Get a sense of what life is like for researchers in the Centre:
Results & Discoveries
Our recent discoveries and results include:
- The first profile of an evolving human metastatic microenvironment, measuring gene expression, matrisome proteomics, cytokine and chemokine levels, cellularity, ECM organization and biomechanical properties, all on the same sample. Using biopsies of high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) metastases that ranged from minimal to extensive disease, we show how non-malignant cell densities and cytokine networks evolve with disease progression (1).
- Defining the effects of neoadjuvant chemotherapy on the host immune system in biopsies from ovarian cancer patients (2,3).
- Discovering a pattern of expression of 22 matrisome genes in tumour biopsies that distinguishes patients with a shorter overall survival in ovarian and twelve other primary solid cancers, suggesting that there may be a common matrix response to human cancer (1).
- Defining the mechanisms of action of inhibiting the chemokine receptor CCR4 in the tumour microenvironment (4).
(1) Pearce OMT*, Delaine-Smith R.*, Maniati, E.*, et al Deconstruction of a metastatic tumor microenvironment reveals a common matrix response in human cancers Cancer Discovery (2017) DOI: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-17-0284 * equal contribution
(2) Montfort A, Pearce O, Maniati E, Vincent BG, Bixby L, Böhm S, Dowe T, Wilkes EH, Chakravarty P, Thompson R, Topping J, Cutillas PR, Lockley M, Serody JS, Capasso M, Balkwill FR. A strong B-cell response is part of the immune landscape in human high-grade serous ovarian metastases. Clinical Cancer Research (2016) 23 250-262
(3) Böhm S, Montfort A, Pearce OMT, Topping J, Chakravarty P, Everitt GLA, Clear A, McDermott JR, Ennis D, Dowe T, Fitzpatrick A, Brockbank EC, Lawrence AC, Jeyarajah A, Faruqi AZ, McNeish IA, Singh N, Lockley M, Balkwill FR. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy modulates the immune microenvironment in metastases of tubo-ovarian high-grade serous carcinoma. Clinical Cancer Research (2016) 22 3025-36
(4) Berlato C, Khan MN, Schioppa T, Thompson R, Maniati E, Montfort A, Jangani M, Canosa M, Kulbe H, Hagemann UB, Duncan A, Fletcher L, Wilkinson RW, Powles T, Quezada S, Balkwill FR. A CCR4 antagonist reverses the tumor-promoting microenvironment of renal cancer. J Clin Invest (2017) 127 801-813
The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Professor Fran Balkwill's team a €2.43million grant for a project that aims to revolutionise the field of cancer cell research: using bioengineering techniques to grow the first complex 3D human tumour in the laboratory.
News and links to further information about the project:
- Fran speaks to BBC Radio London about the CanBuild project
- CanBuild featured in Guardian Science and on the Cancer Research UK Science Update Blog
- June 2016: CanBuild will be at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition - and you can follow on Twitter!
- 2013: A video about the CanBuild project featuring BCI and Blizard Institute researchers has been produced in collaboration with QMUL and Angel Eye Media:
- April 2013: CANBUILD grant award announced