cancer cell made in 3d software. Image courtesy of GettyImages.
Cancer is an important area of medical research at the Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Researchwith a particular focus on lymphoma, brain tumours and oral cancer. We are seeking to understand the differences between normal and aberrant signalling which promote metaplasia and cancer; and how biological information and genetics can be used in translational and clinical research strategies to improve patient therapy globally.

Cancer vaccine

Although effective drug protocols exist for some cancers, many cancers remain untreatable. Researchers in are developing a novel cancer vaccine that targets ‘universal’ tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) as a therapeutic vaccine against cancer for both humans and canine companion animals.

Hematopoiesis and immune cell cancer

Hematopoiesis is a complex but precisely regulated process involving hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and an array of transcription factors and other signalling molecules, anomalies in which can result in pathological conditions such as immunodeficiency or leukaemia and lymphoma. Our lab is working to elucidate the role of the Nuclear Factor of Activated T cell (NFAT) family of transcription factors in HSC maintenance, the differentiation of various lineages and the disorders associated with this process.

Liver cancer

Conducted by the University’s Hepatology Research Group in conjunction with the South West Liver Unit at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, this work is focused on universal tumour associated antigens (U-TAA) and their possible role in primary liver tumours. Through telomerase and survivin sequencing we have highlighted clear differences both between tumour and non-tumour tissues and between primary liver tumour types and are also seeking to identify serum biomarkers of liver tumour development.

(Professor Matthew Cramp, Doctor Ollie Rupar)

Lymphoma and leukaemia drug targets

This research focuses on understanding behaviour of neoplastic lymphocytes of mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia within tissue microenvironments and applying that understanding to look at how novel treatments targeted at signal molecules (such as BTK) achieve their effects. Dr Claire Hutchinson
Dr Anthony Uren's main research interest is using cancer genomes as a tool to understand tumour evolution and from this devise novel avenues for therapy. He has previously performed forward genetic screens in mice through which he identified hundreds of loci undergoing selection during lymphomagenesis many of which are also observed in human malignancies.
His current work includes refining methods for analysing subclonal mutations in tumour cohorts and validating mutated genes as therapeutic targets in primary lymphoma cultures and mouse models.

New targets for cancer treatment

CCN genes modulate core stem cell signalling pathways with deregulated stem cell signalling forming the basis of tumourigenesis and resistance to therapy. This research investigates the roles of CCN1 in driving disease aggression and resistance in prostate cancer, leukaemia and lymphoma.

Pancreatic Cancer

Associate Professor in Biomedical Sciences Dr Natasha Hill leads a research group focused primarily on the role of matrix and matricellular proteins as therapeutic targets to treat pancreatic cancer, and in supporting stem cell differentiation/beta cell regeneration to treat diabetes. Her group also has an interest in the regulation of alternative splicing by metabolic conditions.

Stem cell activation and maintenance in development and cancer

Using various in vivo and in vitro models, and through international collaborations, this research focuses on:
  • Molecular mechanism of cancer initiation, and early intervention and prevention, in skin non-melanoma cancer and oral cancer.
  • Signalling interference in stem-cell fate determination.
  • Epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in controlling organgensis and regeneration.