Cancer-related Inflammation

Why we focus on cancer-related inflammation

Cancer-related inflammation is an important process contributing to malignant disease, with common and defined factors at different stages of progression. For many years we have known that extrinsic inflammatory pathways promote or, in some cases, initiate cancer i.e. that inflammation causes or promotes cancer. It is now clear that an intrinsic inflammation pathway is activated by genetic events that cause neoplasia, i.e. cancer causes inflammation. Activation of oncogenes such as myc, ras and ret, or inactivation of tumour suppressors, such as pVHL, leads to constitutive production of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by the initiated cell. Oncogene and tumour suppressor pathways are proven intracellular targets for therapies, but these recent data mean that inflammatory cytokines, and their receptors, are potential extracellular targets for the development of new drugs. Inflammatory mediators in the tumour microenvironment act on inflammatory cells such as macrophages and neutrophils and in many cancers, these cells can be tumour-promoting, not only aiding growth and spread of malignant cells but also suppressing the activity of adaptive immune cells such as cytotoxic T cells that are able to destroy malignant cells. Therefore some types of inflammatory cells are also targets for cancer treatment.

What we do
  • We investigate the hypothesis that cancer-related inflammation can alter immunity, angiogenesis, disease promotion, progression, metastatic dissemination and response to therapy.
  • We are researching the underlying mechanisms of inflammation in cancer as we believe these represent potential therapeutic targets to modify responses in cancer.
  • We have developed a platform of mouse models and multi-cellular human cell models that recapitulate the tumour microenvironment, using genetic and proteomic analyses of patient-derived specimens as a template and validation for the models.
  • We are conducting pre-clinical studies of new agents targeted against the key drivers of cancer associated inflammation identified by our research and are developing assays to study the effects of these agents in clinical trial.
Major Funders
  • Cancer Research UK
  • Medical Research Council
  • Barts Charity
Key Publications