Teams within the division are researching a wide variety of aspects of biology implicated in the origin, growth and spread of cancer, including cell signalling, division, metabolism, migration and metastasis. Much of the division’s research is concerned with understanding cell signalling and how it is affected by genetic alterations within tumours. Cancer cells do not ‘act alone’ but are influenced by their environment, so we are studying how the cellular and non-cellular components of the tumour microenvironment influence cancer cells. A key scientific approach within the division is systems biology, in which researchers are using pioneering methods of analysis exploiting proteomics, RNA interference screens, cell shape recognition and computational modeling to identity and understand networks that regulate the complex cell processes that control tumour cell behaviour.
Scientists in the division were the first to make the groundbreaking discovery of the mechanism by which the RAS gene – one of the most commonly activated genes in cancer – causes cells to turn malignant through activation of the ERK-MAP kinase cell signalling pathway. Our research in cancer biology also helped identify and understand the BRAF oncogene, which is now an important drug target in malignant melanoma and other tumours.
The joint appointments of Faculty in this division with the divisions of Radiotherapy and Imaging, Cancer Therapeutics, Clinical Studies, and Molecular Pathology ensure fruitful interactions and that scientific and technical developments can be rapidly exploited.