Cancer is an important core theme of medical research at the Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research with a particular focus on lymphoma, brain tumours and oral cancer. 

We are seeking to understand the differences between normal and aberrant signalling which promote metaplasia and cancer; and how biological information and genetics can be used in translational and clinical research strategies to improve patient therapy globally

Brain Tumour Research

Our team of researchers, led by Professor Oliver Hanemann, works closely with the charity Brain Tumour Research as one of three UK universities with a Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence. 

We are leaders in the investigation of low-grade brain tumours, which are usually slow-growing and frequently affect children and young adults. Areas of specific research activity include mechanisms of tumour initiation, setting international standards for biomarker development in Neurofibromatosis, defining new drug targets in merlin-deficient brain tumours and investigating use of combination therapy through research into brain tumour micro-environment and tumour immunology.

Cell control in the peripheral nervous system

This research focuses on the control of myelination and repair in the peripheral nervous system (PNS), including the remarkable ability of Schwann cells to regenerate and repair injury, and their relationship to cancer development and brain tumours in particular.

Professor David Parkinson

Hematopoiesis and immune cell cancer

Hematopoiesis is a complex but precisely regulated process involving hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and an array of transcription factors and other signalling molecules, anomalies in which can result in pathological conditions such as immunodeficiency or leukaemia and lymphoma. Our lab is working to elucidate the role of the Nuclear Factor of Activated T cell (NFAT) family of transcription factors in HSC maintenance, the differentiation of various lineages and the disorders associated with this process.

Doctor Amiya Patra

Liver cancer

Conducted by the University’s Hepatology Research Group in conjunction with the South West Liver Unit at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, this work is focused on universal tumour associated antigens (U-TAA) and their possible role in primary liver tumours. Through telomerase and survivin sequencing we have highlighted clear differences both between tumour and non-tumour tissues and between primary liver tumour types and are also seeking to identify serum biomarkers of liver tumour development.

(Professor Matthew Cramp, Doctor Ollie Rupar)

Lymphoma and leukaemia drug targets

This research focuses on understanding behaviour of neoplastic lymphocytes of mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia within tissue microenvironments and applying that understanding to look at how novel treatments targeted at signal molecules (such as BTK) achieve their effects.

Doctor Claire Hutchinson

Neural Stem Cell (De)regulation and Brain Tumour Initiation

The controlled generation of new neurons and glia cells in the brain from Neural Stem Cell (NSC) progenitors is crucial not only during embryonic development but throughout adult life. Deregulation of adult NSCs or their lineage can lead to a variety of brain disorders, including tumour formation. Our team uses one of the best in vivo genetic models available, the Drosophila central nervous system, to reveal signals controlling Neural Stem Cell mitotic activation, cell fate and lineage maturation in both normal and pathological conditions such as upon brain tumour initiation and growth.

Doctor Claudia Barros

New targets for cancer treatment

CCN genes modulate core stem cell signalling pathways with deregulated stem cell signalling forming the basis of tumourigenesis and resistance to therapy. This research investigates the roles of CCN1 in driving disease aggression and resistance in prostate cancer, leukaemia and lymphoma.

Doctor Lynne McCallum

Stem cell activation and maintenance in development and cancer

Using various in vivo and in vitro models, and through international collaborations, this research focuses on: 

  • Molecular mechanism of cancer initiation, and early intervention and prevention, in skin non-melanoma cancer and oral cancer. 
  • Signalling interference in stem-cell fate determination. 
  • Epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in controlling organgensis and regeneration.

Professor Bing Hu