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Team leaders

The Centre for Evolution and Cancer brings together leading researchers to thwart the evolutionary resilience of cancer in order to reduce the burden of cancer on society.


Headshot of Trevor GrahamProfessor Trevor Graham 

Incoming Director and Faculty Team Leader

Professor Trevor Graham will join the ICR as Director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer in spring 2022. He is team leader of the Genomics and Evolutionary Dynamics laboratory.

For the previous 8.5 years Trevor led the Evolution and Cancer laboratory at the CRUK Barts Cancer Institute within QMUL. Trevor’s laboratory was the first mathematical theory-led laboratory in the Institute.  He co-led the development of computational biology as core research theme at Barts, culminating in the establishment of the Centre for Genomics and Computational Biology in 2019, where Trevor was deputy lead.

Trevor’s research is focused on understanding the evolutionary dynamics of cancer development and translating this knowledge to improve clinical management of disease. His laboratory combines expertise in evolutionary theory, mathematical modelling and bioinformatics, together with cutting-edge wet-lab analyses foremost in genomics, single cell sequencing and molecular pathology.

 

Headshot of Professor Sir Mel Greaves

Professor Mel Greaves

Faculty Team Leader and Founding Director

Professor Mel Greaves trained in evolutionary biology and zoology (BSc) and immunology (PhD) at University College London and at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm before focusing his research on cancer and leukaemia in the mid-1970s at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London.

In 1984, he established the Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology of Leukaemia at The Institute of Cancer Research, London. In 2013, he founded the ICR's Centre for Evolution and Cancer. His laboratory has a longstanding interest in uncovering the natural history, evolutionary biology and causation of childhood leukaemia.

They have used twins with concordant leukaemia, archived neonatal blood spots and frozen cord blood to trace back the origins of leukaemia to its earliest stages and its initiating lesions. They also use single cell genetics and xeno-transplantation to determine clonal architecture, phylogeny and the genetic diversity of stem cells.

In collaboration with epidemiologists, they have pursued an evolutionary ‘mismatch’ hypothesis that explains the role of infections in triggering childhood leukaemia.

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Nicola Valeri

Professor Nicola Valeri

Faculty Team Leader

Professor Nicola Valeri received his medical training in Italy where he completed his residency and fellowship in Medical Oncology in 2008. After spending his last year of training in the States Nicola was captivated by the promises and challenges of microRNAs research and went on to undertake his Research Fellowship in Professor Croce’s Lab investigating the role of non-coding RNAs in gastrointestinal cancers.

Professor Valeri moved to Glasgow University as Clinical Lecturer in 2012 and he was then promoted Senior Clinical Lecturer in Medical Oncology at the beginning of 2013. He was appointed as one of the new ICR Team Leaders at the Centre of Molecular Pathology in October 2013.

Professor Valeri received several prestigious awards including the American-Italian Cancer Foundation International Fellowship (2008-2010), The Italian Foundation for Cancer Research Fellowship for Research Abroad (2010), The Sidney Kimmel Translational Scholar Award (2010-2012) and the Medical Research Society Prize at the Academy of Medical Sciences Clinician Scientist Spring Meeting (2013).

Professor Valeri is interested in the study of gastrointestinal cancers with a special focus on colorectal and gastro-oesophageal cancers.

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Marco GerlingerDr Marco Gerlinger

Faculty Team Leader

Dr Marco Gerlinger trained in medicine and cancer biology in Munich, followed by clinical appointments in Zurich and London. He undertook postdoctoral training in cancer immunotherapy in Zurich and in biomarker and drug target discovery at the London Research Institute.

He leads Translational Oncogenomics Team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and is an honorary consultant in medical oncology at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, where he specialises in the treatment of urological and gastrointestinal cancers.

His research group investigates the relevance of genetic and non-genetic intratumour heterogeneity for cancer progression and the development of drug resistance. They interrogate cancer specimens with high-throughput genomic and functional assays to understand how therapy re-shapes cancer genomic landscapes and to understand the rules and molecular drivers of cancer evolution.

A further area of interest is the identification of therapeutic vulnerabilities of drug-resistant cancer clones through in vitro models. Their research should lead to novel genomic technologies to track cancer evolution minimally invasively and to therapeutic approaches to prevent the evolution of drug resistance. Integrating these therapeutic strategies with precision genomic tracking technologies should lead to the next generation of personalised cancer therapies and improve the outcomes of patients with metastatic cancers.

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Yinyin YuanDr Yinyin Yuan

Faculty Team Leader

Trained as a computer scientist, Dr Yinyin Yuan completed her BSc degree at the University of Science and Technology of China, before obtaining her MSc and PhD at the University of Warwick. At Warwick she became interested in studying genetic regulation in plant disease by adapting statistical analysis tools originally developed for other disciplines such as economics. Her postdoctoral research at the CRUK Cancer Institute in Cambridge involved characterisation of the molecular landscape of breast cancer.

She joined the The Institute of Cancer Research, London, in 2012 as the leader of the Computational Pathology and Integrative Genomics team. Her lab develops computational approaches to study the spatial variability of tumours and the synergistic interactions between cancer genetics and the tumour microenvironment.

Their approaches combine techniques from diverse disciplines including computer science image analysis, spatial statistics and molecular pathology. Their goals are to deliver scientific and clinical advances through integrative modelling of intra-tumour heterogeneity, to foster new developments of statistical applications in pathology, and to develop objective methodologies for directing cancer therapeutic strategies.

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axel behrensProfessor Axel Behrens

Faculty Team Leader and Scientific Director of the Convergence Science Centre

Professor Axel Behrens investigates the role of stem cells in the origin and evolution of human malignancies using organoid model systems. He recently joined the ICR and will collaborate with the CEC to understand how the process of somatic evolution in normal tissues leads to tumourigenesis.

He is a well-known international expert in cancer stem cell biology, and in recent studies his group have identified a cancer stem cell (CSC) population of luminal breast cancers, and shed new light on mechanisms of tumour initiation and progression in pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC), and characterised a rare PDAC CSC population which is crucial for PDAC development.

Professor Behrens is also a pioneer in convergence science – which brings together scientists from different disciplines to tackle research questions in new ways – by forging partnerships between biologists and scientists in other fields, including engineering, physics and mathematical modelling. In addition to being a team leader at the ICR, Professor Behrens is also the inaugural Director of the Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research and Imperial College London.

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dr marco bezziDr Marco Bezzi

Faculty Team Leader

Dr Marco Bezzi's team uses genome editing technologies, mouse models, organoid cultures and mass cytometry-based single cell approaches to experimentally model the cancer ecosystem and to investigate how tumour heterogeneity can be controlled and exploited in light of evolution.

After graduating in Molecular Biotechnology from the University of Bologna, Dr Bezzi moved to the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore to work on arginine methylation in Dr Guccione's laboratory.

In 2014, he joined the Cancer Center of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Department of Medicine/Genetics of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA. Dr Bezzi was awarded the Jane Coffin Childs Fellowship in 2015. His postdoctoral work focused on understanding the link between prostate cancer genetics and tumour microenvironment.

In 2018, he was promoted to Instructor in Medicine, junior faculty, of Harvard Medical School and was awarded the AACR-Amgen Inc. Clinical/Translational Cancer Research Fellowship to continue his studies on prostate cancer heterogeneity. Dr Bezzi joined the ICR in July 2020 as leader of the Tumour Functional Heterogeneity team.

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Dr Alejandra BrunaDr Alejandra Bruna

Faculty Team Leader

Dr Alejandra Bruna recently joined the ICR to study the evolution of paediatric tumours using patient-derived xenograft models. She will collaborate with other members of the CEC to investigate the dynamics of tumour progression and treatment resistance in paediatric tumours within a controllable experimental setting.

She is a cancer biologist with experience leading and contributing to preclinical programmes using improved patient-derived tumour models.

She is trained in molecular biology and biochemistry. She obtained her PhD from the University of Barcelona, followed by two postdoctoral fellowships at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City and Vall d'Hebron Institute, Barcelona. 

Dr Bruna developed, coordinated and co-led a translational research framework for patient-derived tumour xenografts (PDXs) and short-term cultures of PDX cells (or PDTCs) with Professor Carlos Caldas at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.

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professor udai banerjiProfessor Udai Banerji

Faculty Team Leader

Professor Udai Banerji's primary interest in the field of cancer evolution is tackling drug resistance with rational drug schedules to implement in early phase clinical trials. He has already been working extensively with members of the Centre on the identification of drug collateral sensitivity, and the use of evolutionary steering to control drug resistance.

He is a passionate advocate of the Pharmacological Audit Trial and focuses on hypothesis testing, biomarker-enriched first-in-human clinical trials crucial in making go-no-go decisions in early phase clinical trials and accelerating the development of active anticancer drugs.

He joined the ICR in 2000 as a clinical fellow as part of their PhD programme and was awarded his PhD (University of London) in 2005. He started his training in medical oncology at The Royal Marsden in 2003 and was awarded his Certificate of Completion of Training in Medical Oncology in 2007. He joined the ICR as a Career Development Faculty and an honorary consultant at The Royal Marsden in 2007.

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Headshot of Dr Paul HuangDr Paul Huang

Faculty Team Leader

Dr Paul Huang studies the evolution of treatment resistance in lung cancer and sarcomas using systems biology approaches, with the goal of identifying biomarkers and designing novel treatments that address the issue of resistance. Dr Huang will collaborate with the CEC to investigate how evolutionary adaptation leads to resistance to current targeted drugs.

Dr Huang joined the ICR in 2009 as an Institute Fellow and was awarded a Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust (2009-12). He was promoted to a tenure-track Career Development Faculty (2012-17) in the Division of Cancer Biology. He is currently a tenured Career Faculty (2017-present) within the Division of Molecular Pathology and holds a Cancer Research UK Career Establishment Award.

His research focuses on the use of systems biology and molecular pathology to understand drug resistance in sarcomas and lung cancer with the goal of developing biomarkers and new therapies for these diseases.

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