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Division of Cancer Biology

The Division of Cancer Biology studies the complex interplay of genes, proteins and biological processes that drive the development, growth and spread of cancers. Understanding the many different biological systems underlying cancer’s development is essential for understanding cancer and identifying new targets for treatment.

An ICR scientist looking at a microscope image

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.

Head of Division

Professor Jonathon Pines

Professor Jonathon Pines

Head of the Division of Cancer Biology

Professor Jonathon Pines is Head of the Division of Cancer Biology. His research focuses on understanding how cells divide, in particular how the machinery that controls cell division is regulated in space and time.

Research teams

Cell Division

Team leader: Professor Jonathon Pines

Professor Jonathon Pines’s Cell Division Team is investigating how cells regulate cell division and divide genetic information evenly between cells when they separate.

Development and Cancer

Team leader: Dr Amanda Swain

Dr Amanda Swain’s Development and Cancer Team is investigating how the molecular processes that form the prostate, gonad and adrenal glands can contribute to tumour formation and progression.

Dynamical Cell Systems

Team leader: Dr Chris Bakal

Dr Chris Bakal’s Dynamical Cell Systems Team uses genomic approaches and computational modelling to understand how complex biochemical signalling networks are ‘rewired’ during the development of cancer.

Epigenetics and Genome Stability

Team leader: Professor Jessica Downs

Professor Jessica Downs’s team is investigating how DNA packaging influences the stability of genetic information. The researchers are studying how this packaging and its regulation can influence the development and progression of cancer.

Oncogene

The Oncogene Team studies how cancer cells move and invade healthy tissue, causing metastases.

Protein Networks

Team leader: Dr Paul Huang

The Protein Networks Team uses systems biology approaches, in particular mass spectrometry-based proteomics, to characterise cancer signalling networks for biomarker and target identification. Their research focuses on investigating cancer drug resistance, the functional assessment of driver mutations in cancer genes and developing tools for the proteomic profiling of tumour specimens.

Signalling & Cancer Metabolism

Team leader: Dr George Poulogiannis

Dr George Poulogiannis’ Signalling and Cancer Metabolism Team is investigating the role of chemical signal networks in healthy and cancerous cell growth.

Structural Biology of Cell Signalling

Team leader: Dr Sebastian Guettler

Dr Sebastian Guettler’s Structural Biology of Cell Signalling Team is researching the ways in which certain enzymes, known as ADP-ribosyltransferases (ARTs), control cell function.

Tumour Microenvironment

Team leader: Dr Fernando Calvo

Dr Fernando Calvo’s Tumour Microenvironment Team investigates how non-cancerous cells within solid tumours contribute to cancer progression, dissemination and therapeutic resistance.

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