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Professor Axel Behrens

Group Leader

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Professor Axel Behrens is a well-known international expert in cancer stem cell biology as well as a pioneer in forging partnerships between scientists from different disciplines. He leads the Cancer Stem Cell Group at the ICR in parallel with heading up the Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre, a major strategic collaboration between the ICR and Imperial College London. Group: Cancer Stem Cell ORCID 0000-0002-1557-1143


Professor Behrens completed his PhD in Austria and carried out his postdoctoral studies in Switzerland, before setting up a laboratory at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute (now part of the Francis Crick Institute) in 2001.

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. For example, working with physicists and computational scientists, Professor Behrens has pioneered 3D tumour imaging technology which provided fundamental new insights into how tumours develop.

In addition to being a group 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. The Convergence Science Centre will provide a paradigm shift in cancer research by bringing together traditionally separate and distinct disciplines – such as biological, computational, physical, and engineering sciences – into collaborative, integrated research group, to shed light on unresolved problems in cancer biology and bring innovative treatments to cancer patients faster.

Professor Behrens' achievements have been recognised by membership of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the Academia Europaea, and by honorary professorships from King’s College London (UK) and Sun-Yat-Sen University (China).

Professor Behrens 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