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Division of Molecular Pathology

The Division of Molecular Pathology is focused on understanding the molecular alterations important in the development and progression of cancer, and in determining how the disease responds to treatment. The goal is to translate advances in the molecular characterisation of tumours into approaches to successfully implement personalised cancer treatment.

Cell samples on a microscope slide

The division consists of teams investigating a number of tumour types, including breast prostate, paediatric, skin and blood cancers. Researchers are comprehensively characterising the molecular features of cancer, and through strong links with other colleagues elsewhere in The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, aim to establish new molecular diagnostics and novel molecular therapeutic targets in cancer.

Researchers in the division have successfully developed personalised medicine strategies for blood cancers – myeloma, leukaemia and lymphomas. They are now looking to do the same for breast and paediatric cancers, along with rarer cancers, such as soft-tissue sarcomas for which few treatments are available.

Researchers are also examining changes in the cancer epigenome to provide understanding of tumour development and response to treatment; and using deep sequencing technologies to identify specific molecular alterations that lead to drug resistance not only in individual tumours, but in specific metastatic sites.

The division houses the ICR’s new Tumour Profiling Unit, which is designed to accelerate moves towards individualised cancer treatment, by analysing tumours with the latest sequencing technologies and modelling their behaviour using mouse xenografts. The TPU houses state-of-the-art technology for genomic, proteomic and epigenetic analysis of tumours, allowing patient biopsies to be analysed at diagnosis and throughout treatment.

Head of Division

Professor Janet Shipley

Professor Janet Shipley

Professor of Cancer Molecular Pathology

Professor Janet Shipley is investigating ways to improve the treatment of patients with sarcomas that have a poor outcome. She is the Head of the Division of Molecular Pathology.

Research teams

Acute Leukaemia

Team leader: Dr David Taussig

The Acute Leukaemia Team aims to develop new therapeutic strategies for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a disease with a poor outcome for many patients. The team focuses on improving understanding of the disease through studies on leukaemia stem cells and their interactions with normal haematopoietic stem cells.

Biology of Childhood Leukaemia

Team leader: Professor Mel Greaves

Professor Mel Greaves’ Biology of Childhood Leukaemia Team is funded by The Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund and Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and seeks to uncover the causes of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

Computational Pathology and Integrative Genomics

Team leader: Dr Yinyin Yuan

Dr Yinyin Yuan’s Computational Pathology and Integrative Genomics Team works to reconstruct two-dimensional or three-dimensional tumour models from images of tumour sections.

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.


Team leader: Professor Mitch Dowsett

Professor Mitch Dowsett’s Endocrinology Team aims to translate basic breast cancer research into advances in patient care.

Evolutionary Genomics and Modelling

Team leader: Dr Andrea Sottoriva

Dr Andrea Sottoriva’s Evolutionary Genomics and Modelling Team uses biological, clinical and mathematical expertise, in order to decipher how cancer progresses, metastasises and develops treatment resistance.

Functional Genomics

Team leader: Dr Rachael Natrajan

Dr Rachel Natrajan’s Functional Genomics Team aims to identify the genetic causes of different types of breast cancer and then use this knowledge to develop new treatments for the disease.

Gastrointestinal Cancer Biology and Genomics

Team leader: Dr Nicola Valeri

Dr Nicola Valeri’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Biology and Genomics Team aims to discover new biomarkers and therapeutic targets in gastrointestinal cancers, particularly colorectal and gastro-oesophageal cancers.

Gene Function

Team leader: Dr Chris Lord

The Gene Function Laboratory investigates the genetic basis of breast cancer as a means to understand and treat the disease.


Team leader: Professor Chris Jones

Dr Chris Jones’ Glioma Team investigates ways to translate basic molecular pathology findings into improved clinical outcomes for children with cancer.

Lung Cancer Group

Team leader: Professor Julian Downward

Professor Julian Downward's Lung Cancer Group is unravelling the molecular mechanisms by which oncogenes drive tumour formation, growth and spread, with particular focus on the RAS oncogenes and EGFR.

Medicine (Brown Epigenetic Therapy)

Team leader: Professor Robert Brown

Professor Robert Brown’s Epigenetics Team examines how gene expression can be regulated without involving gene mutations.

Molecular and Population Genetics

Team leader: Professor Richard Houlston

Professor Richard Houlston’s Molecular and Population Genetics Team works to identify cancer susceptibility genes and understand how these can cause cancer.

Myeloma Group

Team leader: Professor Richard Houlston

The Myeloma Group led by Professor Richard Houlston is investigating new personalised treatments for the blood cancer myeloma.

Sarcoma Molecular Pathology

Team leader: Professor Janet Shipley

Professor Janet Shipley’s Sarcoma Molecular Biology Team is investigating ways to improve the treatment of patients with soft tissue sarcomas associated with poor clinical outcome.

Systems and Precision Cancer Medicine

Team leader: Dr Anguraj Sadanandam

Dr Anguraj Sadanandam’s Systems and Precision Cancer Medicine Team is investigating methods to classify pancreatic-, colorectal-, breast- and multiple other cancer patients into clinically relevant subgroups.

Translational Oncogenomics

Team leader: Dr Marco Gerlinger

Dr Marco Gerlinger’s team uses the latest genomic sequencing technologies to track the evolution of cancers in tumour and blood samples from clinical trials. By unravelling the exact mechanisms that allow tumours to evolve when they spread to other organs in the body or develop drug resistance, his team identifies the next generation of smarter and more effective cancer therapies.

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