Professor Sir Nicholas Wright

Nicholas Wright

MD, PhD, DSc, FRCS, FRCP, FRCPath, FMedSci
Centre for Tumour Biology
Emeritus Professor
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My research interests include clonal evolution in colorectal adenomas and inflammation-associated cancer, the nature of Barrett’s glands, and the design of methods to explore neutral drift in stem cell divisions in normal human tissues.

My work included designing methods for the analysis of stem cell biology in human tissues with the aim of understanding the role of stem cells in the maintenance of normal tissue architecture and the progression to malignancy.

We championed the use of mutations in mitochondrial and genomic DNA as clonal markers, and combined these with the analysis of methylation patterns in non-expressed genes to give a time dimension to the clonal expansion of stem cells in normal and malignant tissues.

Thus we have been able to show the location of the stem cell niche in a number of tissues, including the prostate, gastrointestinal and liver epithelia, and to explore clonal expansion of mutant clones in Barrett’s oesophagus, gastric intestinal metaplasia and colorectal adenomas.

We were also been able to follow the development of pre-tumour clones in the colon during pre-neoplastic evolution in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.


I am Emeritus Professor of Histopathology at the Barts Cancer Institute. 

  • 2012-2018: Professor of Histopathology, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London
  • 1988-2011: Group Leader, Histopathology Unit, Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, UK
  • 2001-2011: Warden, Barts and the London, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London UK
  • 2001-2011: Professor of Investigative Science, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London UK; Honorary Consultant Histopathologist, Barts and the London NHS Trust; UK Visiting Chairs at University College London and University of Oxford
  • 1997-2000: Deputy Principal and Vice-Principal for Research, Imperial College School of Medicine, UK
  • 1996-1997: Dean, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, UK
  • 1988-1996: Director of Clinical Research, ICRF, UK
  • 1980-1996: Professor of Histopathology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, UK; Director of Histopathology, Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte's SHA, UK; Honorary Consultant Histopathologist, Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte's SHA, UK
  • 1997-1979: Nuffield Reader in Pathology, University of Oxford, UK; Honorary Consultant Pathologist, Oxford University Hospital Group, UK; Fellow, Green College, UK
  • 1975-1976: Senior Lecturer in Pathology, University of Newcastle-upon Tyne, UK; Honorary Consultant Pathologist, Newcastle University Hospitals Group, UK
  • 1971-1975: Lecturer in Pathology, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
  • 1985: DSc, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
  • 1979: MA, University of Oxford
  • 1975: PhD University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
  • 1973: MD, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
  • 1965: MB BS, Durham University

Key Publications

Baker AM, Cereser B, Melton S, Fletcher AG, Rodriguez-Justo M, Tadrous PJ, Humphries A, Elia G, McDonald SA, Wright NA, Simons BD, Jansen M, Graham TA. Quantification of crypt and stem cell evolution in the normal and neoplastic human colon. Cell Rep. 2014 Aug 21;8(4):940-7. PMID: 25127143

Lavery DL, Nicholson AM, Poulsom R, Jeffery R, Hussain A, Gay LJ, Jankowski JA, Zeki SS, Barr H, Harrison R, Going J, Kadirkamanathan S, Davis P, Underwood T, Novelli MR, Rodriguez-Justo M, Shepherd N, Jansen M, Wright NA, McDonald SA. The stem cell organisation, and the proliferative and gene expression profile of Barrett's epithelium, replicates pyloric-type gastric glands. Gut. 2014 Feb 18. pii: gutjnl-2013-306508. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2013-306508. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 24550372

Humphries A, Cereser B, Gay LJ, Miller DS, Das B, Gutteridge A, Elia G, Nye E, Jeffery R, Poulsom R, Novelli MR, Rodriguez-Justo M, McDonald SA, Wright NA, Graham TA. Lineage tracing reveals multipotent stem cells maintain human adenomas and the pattern of clonal expansion in tumor evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jul 2;110(27):E2490-9. PMID: 23766371

External Activities

  • Trustee, Ovarian Cancer Action
  • Chairman, Scientific Committee, British Skin Diseases Research Trust
  • Chairman, Kings Health Partners R&D Challenge Fund Scientific Committee
  • Chairman, UEA Clinical Academic Initiative Advisory Board
  • Chairman, Bowel & Cancer Research Committee
  • Editorial Boards of Gastroenterology, Journal of Pathology, International Journal of Experimental Pathology and Cell Proliferation
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