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
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.