Cancer biology

The cancer researchers within the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine are part of a vibrant cross-disciplinary and cross-faculty community which forms an integral component of a new city-wide virtual Bristol Cancer Biomarkers and Clinical Translation Institute.

Mission statement

Although in recent years there have been tremendous advances in our understanding of the causes of cancer, cancer remains a major cause of deaths worldwide and in the UK one in three people will be affected by the disease. The aim of cancer researchers in the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine is to increase our understanding of the cellular and molecular biology of cancer and to translate these findings into new cancer biomarkers which can be exploited for novel prevention, early detection, and treatment strategies for cancer. The focus of our research is principally, but not exclusively on cancers of the large bowel and childhood cancers such as Wilms' tumours and neuroblastoma.

Work in the Cancer Epigenetics lab (CEL) involves the use of high throughput technologies to enable the examination of many different types of childhood and adult cancers for genome-wide genetic and epigenetic changes (Keith Brown and Karim Malik). This will identify candidate genes that are novel biomarkers and targets for epigenetic therapies. The mechanisms by which transcription factors function and how this alters in cancer is also under investigation (Stefan Roberts). The overall aim of the research in the Colorectal tumour biology research group (Chris Paraskeva and Ann Williams) is to increase our understanding of the cellular and molecular biology of colorectal cancer with the aim to develop novel preventative and therapeutic strategies and to develop new biomarkers for the early detection of bowel cancer (in collaboration with Angela Hague). In clinical trials the focus is to determine whether the COX2/prostaglandin pathway can be exploited for novel treatments for cancer. Other areas of interest include E-cadherin/catenin complexes and fascin regulation in colorectal neoplasia; molecular cross talk between E-cadherin and the EGF receptor; dietary fibre and colorectal cancer; and epithelial regeneration and mucosal repair. Abdelkader Essafi is working on the study of the molecular mechanisms that underpin how dormant embryonic processes are hijacked in cancer and how this could open new avenues for early detection and therapy. Research in Nuclear Dynamics Laboratory (Abderrahmane Kaidi) applies cell imaging and next generation sequencing approaches to identify cancer associated changes in nuclear structure and chromatin organisation. These are being harnessed as potential biomarkers for diagnosis and as novel therapeutic targets. Rhys Morgan's interests concern the role of Wnt/β-catenin signalling in normal haematopoiesis and leukaemia, and in particular the characterisation of β-catenin protein interactions critical for leukaemogenesis. Work in the Amoyel lab explores how cancer-causing mutations biases stem cell behaviour such that mutant stem cells colonise tissue at the expense of healthy stem cells (Marc Amoyel).

Theme leader

Professor Ann Williams

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