Professor Fran Balkwill

OBE, FMedSci
Centre: Centre for Cancer & Inflammation
  • Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences
  • Honorary Fellowship of the British Science Association
Centre Lead, Centre for Cancer and Inflammation
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QMUL Directory

My key area of interest is in cancer and the tumour microenvironment, especially in ovarian cancer.

Research Details

My research is focused on the links between cancer and inflammation, being especially interested in translating knowledge of cancer biology into new biological treatments for cancer and in the role that inflammatory cytokines play in cancer promotion.

My key areas of interest are:

  • The Tumour Microenvironment
  • Inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in the tumour microenvironment
  • 'Ovarian' cancer with a focus on high grade serous and clear cell subtypes
  • Public engagement with biomedical science and science policy



I am Professor of Cancer Biology at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, where I lead the Centre for Cancer and Inflammation and the Cytokine and Cancer group within that Centre. I study the links between cancer and inflammation and research ways of translating this to clinical trial.

In 2006, I was made a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, being elected a member of its Council later in the same year. I am a frequent plenary and keynote speaker at international meetings, such as Gordon and Keystone conferences and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

I am also actively involved in communication of science to non-specialist audiences, especially young people. I have written thirteen science books for children on cell and molecular biology, with titles such as Enjoy Your Cells and The Egg and Sperm Race. 

I am the Director of the Centre of the Cell, a biomedical science centre for children, educational website, and widening participation and outreach project in Whitechapel. The website was launched in March 2007 and the physical Centre opened in September 2009. As of October 2014 there have been over 85,000 participants in Centre of the Cell activities (

I am a non-parliamentary board member of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, POST and Chair of Understanding Animal Research (UAR). I am on the Scientific Advisory Committee of Breakthrough Breast Cancer and I was awarded an OBE in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours list.


2013 Commission of the European Community CANBUILD-Building a Human Tumour Microenvironment
Approx. £1.7m
2013 - 2017 Cancer Research UK Programme Grant Targeting the peritoneal tumour microenvironment of high grade serous ovarian cancer
Approx. £1m
2011 - 2013 Medical College of St Bartholomew's Hospital 3-Year Studentship
2011 Affitech Collaboration Grant Validation of CCR4 Antibody
2010 ArGEN -X BVBA Collaboration Grant Investigation of Argen-x anti-human IL-6 antibody in vitro and in mouse xenograft models of ovarian cancer
2009 - 2013 BBSRC Industrial CASE Studentship with AstraZeneca Role of Chemokine CXCL12 in Cell-Cell and Cell-Matrix Interactions in Normal and Pathological Processes
2009 Cancer Research UK Chemokine CXCL12 for Cancer Therapy
2009 University of Glasgow Sub-contracted research
2009 Medimmune Ltd. Collaboration Grant Anti-human CXCR4 antibodies
2009 Astrazeneca UK Limited Collaboration Grant The Role of the Chemokine CXCL12 in cellcell and cellmatrix
2008 - 2013 Cancer Research UK Programme Grant Targeting Cancer-Related Inflammation
Approx. £1m
2008 Cancer Research UK Project Grant Targeting chemokine receptor CCR4r
2008 Cancer Research UK Consumables Grant £63,561
2008 Centocor Inc. Collaboration Grant CCL2, CCR2 and Ovarian Cancer

Key Publications

  • Montfort A, Pearce OMT, Maniati M, Vincent B, Bixby LM, Böhm S, Dowe T, Wilkes EH, Chakravarty P, Thompson R, Topping J, Cutillas PR, Lockley M, Serody J, Capasso M, Balkwill FR. A strong B cell response is part of the immune landscape in human high-grade serous ovarian metastases. Clin Cancer Res. 2016. PMID: 27354470
  • Archibald KM, Kulbe H, Kwong J, Chakravarty P, Temple J, Chaplin T, Flak MB, McNeish IA, Deen S, Brenton JD, Young BD, Balkwill FR. Sequential genetic change at the TP53 and chemokine receptor CXCR4 locus during transformation of human ovarian surface epithelium. Oncogene 2012. PMID: 22266861
  • Schioppa T, Moore R, Thompson R, Rosser E, Kulbe H, Nedospasov S, Mauri C, Coussens LM, Balkwill FR. B regulatory cells and the tumor-promoting actions of TNF-α during squamous carcinogenesis. PNAS U S A. 2011 PMID: 21670304
  • Li NF, Kocher HM, Salako MA, Obermueller E, Sandle J, Balkwill FR. A novel function of colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor in hTERT immortalization of human epithelial cells. Oncogene 2009. PMID: 18997822

For additional publications, please click here.

Cytokines and Cancer Group

Laura King PhD Student
Zohra Gueroui Medical Laboratory Assistant
Dr Ganga Gopinathan Postdoctoral Research Assistant
Dr Chiara Berlato Postdoctoral Research Assistant
Dr Anne Montfort Postdoctoral Research Assistant
Alzbeta Talarovicova Research Technician

Tumour Microenvironment

Lily Keane  PhD Student
Laura Lecker PhD Student
Dr Juliana Candido Postdoctoral Research Assistant
Dr Eleni Maniati Postdoctoral Research Assistant
Dr Fiona McCarthy Clinical research Fellow

B cell Differentiation

Dr Melania Capasso Lecturer

My key area of interest is in cancer and the tumour microenvironment, especially in ovarian cancer.

External Activities

  • Centre of the Cell
  • Barts and The London Charity
    Cancer Research Committee
  • Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry 
    Charterhouse Square Working Group (Chair)
  • Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) 
    Non-Parliamentary Board Member
  • Royal Society
    Michael Faraday Medal Award Committee
  • Understanding Animal Research
    Committee Member (Chair)
  • Breast Cancer Now
    Scientific Advisory Commitee Member


Updates on the CANBUILD project can be found on the Centre for Cancer and Inflammation page

  • June 2017: wins CRUK Inspiring Leadership in Research Engagement prize
  • September 2015: Centre of the Cell featured in PLOS Biology
  • November 2014: speaker at the NCRI conference
  • October 2014: part of the London Evening Standard's Super Smart feature
  • April 2013: CRUK grant awarded to investigate the ovarian cancer microenvironment
  • April 2013: Invited speaker at the AACR conference.
  • January 2013: contribution to The Enemy Within, a film about cancer research.
  • July 2012: interviewed by cancer research survivor David Taylor.
  • March 2012: Invited speaker at the AACR conference.
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