Dr Oliver M Pearce

Dr Oliver M Pearce

BSc (Hons), PhD
Centre: Cancer & Inflammation
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The focus of our research is the tumour microenvironment (TME). We are particularly interested in understanding the composition and function of the tumour extracellular matrix in immunosuppression.

Research Details

Current research projects:

Research Project 1: The role of the tumour matrix on immune cell activation

In our previous studies, we have deconstructed the TME of high grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSC) and identified twenty-two ECM molecules that we use as a quantified ratio or 'matrix index', MI, found to be common in many human carcinomas (Pearce, Delaince-Smith, Maniati, et al. in revision). A major finding from this work has been the strong correlation of the MI with immunosuppressive immune cell phenotypes and poor prognosis in solid tumour patients.

Understanding how the ECM disrupts anti-tumour immunity and regulates the local immune environment could identify new targets to treat many cancers. Our hypothesis is, components of the MI communicate with tumour infiltrating immune cells to generate immunosuppressive phenotypes.


Research Project 2: Characterising the glycan shield of the tumour extracellular matrix

Complementary to project 1, the aim of this work is to further investigate the MI (described above) in triple negative breast cancer tissues, including characterising the post-translational modifications on MI proteins, which we think are important in generating the immunosuppressive TME. This work will be done in collaboration with Alexandra Naba (University of Illinois, Chicago), Pedro Cutillas (QMUL), and Stuart Haslam (Imperial College London).


I originally trained as an organic chemist with Prof Ben Davis and Prof Len Seymour at Oxford University. My PhD thesis was on the development of chemically glycosylated viral vectors for cancer gene therapy.

For my post-doctoral studies I moved to Prof. Ajit Varki’s lab at the University of California, San Diego. Here I investigated how glycans are involved in cancer immunity. After five years in California, I returned to the UK for a second post-doc with Prof. Fran Balkwill at Barts Cancer Institute to further train in cancer biology.

In September 2017 I started my own research program with funding from UCB Pharma and Against Breast Cancer. The theme of our work is the tumour matrisome and its role in tumour immunity.


Current funding

Jan 2018 - Dec 2018: Against Breast Cancer see grant. Characterising the glycan shield of the extracellular matrix.

Sept 2017 - 2020: UCB-UCLP PhD studentship.


Completed grants

June 2009 - June 2012: Cancer Research Institute post-doctoral fellowship (University of California, San Diego).

Nov 2007 - May 2008: ISIS innovation post-doctoral grant (Oxford University).

Key Publications

Characterization of the extracellular matrix of normal and diseased tissues using proteomics. Naba A*, Pearce OMT*, Del Rosario A, Ma, D, Ding H, Rajeeve V, Cutillas PR, Balkwill FR, Hynes RO. J.Proteome Res, 2017, 16, 3083-3091 PMID:28675934 *Joint corresponding and joint first authors 

A red meat-derived glycan promotes inflammation and cancer progression Samraj, A. N.*, Pearce OMT*, Laubli H, Crittenden AN, Bergfeld AK, Banda K, Gregg CJ, Bingman AE, Secrest P, Diaz SL, Varki N, Varki A. PNAS, 2015, 112, 542-547. PMID:25548184 *Authors contributed equally

Engagement of myelomonocytic Siglecs by tumor-associated ligands regulates innate immune responses to cancer. Laubli H*, Pearce OMT*, Schwarz F, Deng L, Stanczak M, Deng L, Verhagen A, Secrest P, Lusk C, Schwartz AG, Varki N, Bui JD, Varki A. PNAS, 2014, 111, 14211-14216. PMID:25225409 *Authors contributed equally.

Inverse hormesis of cancer growth mediated by narrow ranges of tumor-directed antibodies. Pearce OMT*, Laubli H*, Verhagen A, Secrest P, Varki N, Varki A. PNAS. 2014, 111, 5998-6003. PMID: 24711415 *Authors contributed equally.

Further Publications

For additional publications, please click here

The focus of our research is the tumour microenvironment (TME). We are particularly interested in understanding the composition and function of the tumour extracellular matrix in immunosuppression.

External Activities

Member of the 'British Society for Matrix Biology'

See other researchers working on:

Breast Immunology Metastasis and Invasion Ovarian Cancer
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