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Dr Olivia Rossanese

Head of Division and Group Leader

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Dr Olivia Rossanese is Director of the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery and Head of the Division of Cancer Therapeutics. She is investigating new therapeutic targets for the treatment of cancer and examining the molecular consequences of their inhibition in cancer cells and tumours. Group: Target Biology and Genomic Instability Group: Target Evaluation and Molecular Therapeutics ORCID 0000-0002-1262-9522


Dr Olivia Rossanese is a cancer biologist and drug discovery professional with experience leading and contributing to discovery and target validation programmes within both academia and the pharmaceutical industry.

She has been involved with the identification of tool molecules, lead compounds, clinical candidates, and two licensed medicines currently in use for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

She joined The Institute of Cancer Research in 2015 as Head of Biology in the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery (formerly called the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit). In 2022, Dr Rossanese was appointed Head of the Division of Cancer Therapeutics and Director of the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery.

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Dr Rossanese is trained as a classical cell biologist, obtaining her PhD in molecular genetics and cell biology from the University of Chicago, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in the Section of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale University. In both instances, she was examining basic cellular and molecular processes employed by mammalian cells to overcome challenges in organelle partitioning or intracellular trafficking.

Dr Rossanese gained her industrial preclinical drug discovery experience in the Oncology Biology group at GlaxoSmithKline in Philadelphia, US. She was a member of the discovery team for dabrafenib and contributed to the due diligence decision regarding in-licensing of the MEK inhibitor trametinib. She also led discovery and validation teams against targets involved in cell growth, survival, motility, epithelial-mesenchymal transition and metastasis, and modulators of epigenetic signalling in cancer. 

In 2010, Dr Rossanese joined Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee to establish a cancer biology group in support of the academic oncology drug discovery programme. Here she continued to pursue the discovery of molecularly targeted therapeutics for important targets in cancer, including Ras, MCL1, and replication protein A. An exciting output of this work is the discovery of novel molecules that activate the nucleotide exchange process on Ras and may represent a novel mechanism for the disruption of Ras-mediated signalling in cancer cells. 

Dr Rossanese currently leads the Target Evaluation and Molecular Therapeutics Team. The team has a dual role in developing assays and strategies to support the drug discovery process and investigating the underlying biology of cancer targets and the response to targeted therapeutics.

Dr Rossanese is a member of the Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre, which brings together leading researchers in engineering, physical sciences, life sciences and medicine to develop innovative ways to address challenges in cancer.

Convergence Science Centre