Welcome to the Resistance Lab research page. Lead by Dr Lennard Lee at the University of Birmingham, the lab focuses on the interaction between COVID-19 and cancer metastasis, genome engineering, development of novel animal models of disease and pioneering the use of next generation Sequencing.
I am currently leading a group which has launched the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project. The UK Coronavirus cancer monitoring scheme is a national project which pioneers the use of a clinician-led reporting project to enable tracking of cancer patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 across the United Kingdom.
Our current research programs utilise the latest public health techniques, molecular techniques and models to gain an exquisite insight into cancer, COVID-19 and disease.
Our research group is a research group at the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, University of Birmingham.
The group was started by Dr Lennard Lee following his recruitment to Birmingham by Prof Ian Tomlinson from his previous post at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford.
Lennard graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2005 (Natural Science Tripos (II) – Neuroscience). As part of this degree, he worked on the development of viral vectors for transgene deliver. Whilst at Cambridge he was awarded the Sun Hung Kai-Kwok Foundation Scholarship and Larmor Prize for “intellectual qualifications, moral conduct and practical activities”.
He then studied clinical medicine at the University of Oxford and graduated in 2008. On graduation and working as a clinician, he worked in the South West Thames Institute of Renal research researching the process of Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition (2011).
Lennard was then successful in his application to the Medical Research Council (UK) for a national Clinical Training Research Fellowship in 2013. He performed his DPhil with Professor Ian Tomlinson at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford. He researched “Gene Drivers of Metastasis in Colorectal cancer” and lead to a Core Trainee Research Award (2016) and a section prize at the BSG (2017).
He then applied for a BRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship to work as a postdoc to enable him to develop his skills in bioinformatics, next generation sequencing and the creation of highly phenotyped Clinical Cohorts. This was performed at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Ian Tomlinson and Professor David and Rachel Kerr.
Lennard was then recruited in 2018 to the University of Birmingham to work at the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences and develop his research group as a Senior Clinical Training Research Fellow.
Thomas Starkey is the Research Associate and an exceptional MSc graduate from the University of Nottingham where he investigated germ cell attraction and the role of Hedgehog signalling. He has previously worked at Abbexa, Cambridge, before joining the lab in 2018. He is using bioinformatics and molecular biology techniques to aid our understanding of cancer metastasis.
Rebecca Davies is a MSc student studying Genomic Medicine at Queen Mary’s at London. She has got a strong academic record scoring top marks in her genomics modules and is leading research identifying transcriptomic expression changes associated with CRC metastases.
Summaya is a driven undergraduate at the University of Birmingham studying Medical Biochemistry. She is keen fundraiser for CRUK and is spending the summer learn about our approaches and investigating strategies to treat non-small cell lung cancer.
PREVIOUS GROUP MEMBERS
Sam Bethell is a talented final year student at the University of Birmingham studying Biomedical sciences. He interested in cancer science and molecular genetics and a hugely enthusiastic and creative lab member. He is developing in-vitro co-culture assays to understand tumour interactions.
Tis Mirshahi is a determined final year student studying Biosciences at the University of Birmingham. She is keen to develop a career as a healthcare scientist in clinical biochemistry. She has developed expertise in protein quantification and localisation and helping greatly with the lab’s existing research programs.
Joanna Anderson is a talented medical student from Hertford College, University of Oxford who joined us from 2017. An asset to the lab, she is skilled in wet lab work as well as bioinformatics and next generation sequencing.
2018:- Joe Flint was a honorary research assistant who graduated with a first class degree from the University of Liverpool. He was involved in excellent work processing our metastatic sample cohorts and has gone on to work with the Birmingham Human Tissue Biorepository.
2017: Hendrik Bohm was one of our first visiting students. He studied at the Hans Bockler college, Germany. During his time with us, he helped design genome engineering vectors and contributed to our cancer cell culture experiments.
My group have two main aims. Firstly to understand the interaction beween COVID-19 and cancer.
There are many unknowns in terms of the interactions between COVID-19 and cancer, including disease-specific mortality, age-specific cancer mortality, interaction with cancer treatments, impact of public health interventions and potential impact on patients.
Secondly my lab is interested in finding out exactly why cancer is able to develop aggressive features and able to metastasise. These are patients with either stage 3 or stage 4 cancers and are often incurable. I am investigating if this arises because of the genes patients have inherited or as a result of the genetic changes that occur in the cancer.
This is important because it will allow the developing of a greater understanding of why late stage tumours develop but also because this will herald the possibility of developing new therapies for aggressive cancers.
I aim to answer these questions through the following research tools, the development of cutting edge animal models, use of genetic screens, pioneering new molecular techniques- 3’ RNA, use of genome engineering, improvement of realistic in vitro models, undertanding developmental transcription factors and through the intergrated use of Next Generation Sequencing and Genomics.
Here are some of the projects we are running
The UK Coronavirus cancer monitoring scheme is a national project which pioneers the use of a clinician-led reporting project to enable tracking of cancer patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 across the United Kingdom. This project aims to enable direct real-time daily updates back to individual Cancer Centres. The project has the support of Association of Cancer Physicians (ACP), NOTCH and Cancer Research UK.
Cancer de-differentiation is a process by which tumours revert back to a more primitive form. This gives tumour cells the ability to grow indefinitely, move and metastasise. In this study, we analysed the role of a gene called SGK1. This gene is at a low level in colorectal cancer and stops cancers undergoing dedifferentiation. In this completed study we found by getting a cancer to re-express SGK1, we were able to revert human colorectal cancers back to a much less aggressive form.
Aggressive tumours are able to spread to other organs, or metastasise. In this project we are using mouse model to analyse several thousand genes to identify which are important.
The genes you inherit from your parents often determine how likely to get side effects of chemotherapy. In this study, we are attempting to understand if genetic testing can be incorporated into patients undergoing chemotherapy and how helpful this is to patients and doctors.
When cancer spreads, the first place it invades is the lymph nodes. This early aggressive feature is the aim of this study. We are attempting to understand why this happens and how the body responds to it.
The body is able to control the growth of a cancer through the work of immune cells. In this pilot study, we are attempting to see if we can measure the response of the immune cell and describe the changes that take place during this process.