Dr Oliver M. Pearce

BSc (Hons), PhD
Group Leader
Research Focus

The focus of our research is the tumour microenvironment (TME). We are particularly interested in understanding the composition and function of the tumour extracellular matrix in immunosuppression.

Key Publications

Deconstructing a metastatic human tumor microenvironment. Cancer Disc (2018) 3, 304-319. PMID: 29196464

Characterization of the extracellular matrix of normal and diseased tissues using proteomics. J Proteome Res (2017) 16, 3083-3091. PMID: 28675934 *Joint corresponding and joint first authors

A red meat-derived glycan promotes inflammation and cancer progression. PNAS (2015) 112, 542-547. PMID: 25548184 *Authors contributed equally

Engagement of myelomonocytic Siglecs by tumor-associated ligands regulates innate immune responses to cancer. PNAS (2014) 111, 14211-14216. PMID: 25225409

Major Funding
  • 2018-2019- Against Breast Cancer, Characterising the glycan shield of the extracellular matrix
Other Activities
  • Member of the 'British Society for Matrix Biology'

Current research projects:

  • Research Project 1: The role of the tumour matrix on immune cell activation

In our previous studies, we have deconstructed the TME of high grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSC) and identified twenty-two ECM molecules that we use as a quantified ratio or 'matrix index', MI, found to be common in many human carcinomas (Pearce, Delaine-Smith, Maniati, et al. 2018). A major finding from this work has been the strong correlation of the MI with immunosuppressive immune cell phenotypes and poor prognosis in solid tumour patients. Understanding how the ECM disrupts anti-tumour immunity and regulates the local immune environment could identify new targets to treat many cancers. Our hypothesis is, components of the MI communicate with tumour infiltrating immune cells to generate immunosuppressive phenotypes. This work is being done by Elliott Puttock, in collaboration with Dr. Ann White at UCB Pharma.

  • Research Project 2: Characterising the glycan shield of the tumour extracellular matrix

Complementary to project 1, the aim of this work is to further investigate the MI (described above) in triple negative breast cancer tissues, including characterising the post-translational modifications on MI proteins, which we think are important in generating the immunosuppressive TME. This work is being done by Ying Liu and Priyanka Hirani in my lab, and in collaboration with Dr. Alexandra Naba (University of Illinois, Chicago), Dr. Pedro Cutillas (QMUL), and Dr. Stuart Haslam (Imperial College London).

  • Research Project 3: Investigating a specific Matrix Index molecule in forming an immune-barrier within the tumour microenvironment.

As a result of research project 2, we have identified one particular matrix index molecule that associates with inhibition of cytotoxic T-cell infiltration within the tumour microenvironment. Taking a biochemical approach we are following up on this observation to characterise the proteoglycans structure and immunological function. This work is being done by Priyanka Hirani in my lab, in collaboration with Dr. Pedro Cutillas (BCI), and Prof. Tom Wight (Benaroya Research Institute, Seattle).

Other Activities
  • Member of the 'British Society for Matrix Biology'
Major Funding
  • 2018-2019- Against Breast Cancer, Characterising the glycan shield of the extracellular matrix
  • 2017-2020- UCB-UCLP PhD studentship
Recent Publications

Cancer Immunotherapy. Pearce OMT, Läubli H Glycobiology (2018) 28(2) 638-639

Cancer glycan epitopes: biosynthesis, structure, and function. Pearce OM Glycobiology (2018) (1)

Deconstruction of a metastatic tumor microenvironment reveals a common matrix response in human cancers. Pearce OMT, Delaine-Smith R, Maniati E et al. Cancer Discov (2017) (1)

N-glycolyl groups of nonhuman chondroitin sulfates survive in ancient fossils. Bergfeld AK, Lawrence R, Diaz SL et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2017) 114(1) E8155-E8164

Characterization of the Extracellular Matrix of Normal and Diseased Tissues Using Proteomics. Naba A, Pearce OMT, Del Rosario A et al. J Proteome Res (2017) 16(2) 3083-3091

A strong B cell response is part of the immune landscape in human high-grade serous ovarian metastases. Montfort A, Pearce OMT, Maniati E et al. Clinical Cancer Research (1)

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy modulates the immune microenvironment in metastases of tubo-ovarian high-grade serous carcinoma BALKWILL F, Anne Montfort, Oliver Pearce Clinical Cancer Research (2016) (1)

Sialic acids in cancer biology and immunity. Pearce OMT, Läubli H Glycobiology (2016) 26(2) 111-128

Interleukin-6 Stimulates Defective Angiogenesis. Gopinathan G, Milagre C, Pearce OMT et al. Cancer Res (2015) 75(2) 3098-3107

Interleukin-6 stimulates defective angiogenesis Gopinathan G, Milagre C, Pearce OMT et al. CANCER RESEARCH (2015) 75(11)

For additional publications, please click here

PhD Students
Mr Elliott Puttock, Ms Ying Liu

Technical Staff
Ms Priyanka Hirani

Visiting/Placement Students
Ms Valentine Gauthier (Paris-Sud University)


I originally trained as an organic chemist with Prof Ben Davis and Prof Len Seymour at Oxford University. My PhD thesis was on the development of chemically glycosylated viral vectors for cancer gene therapy.

For my post-doctoral studies I moved to Prof. Ajit Varki’s lab at the University of California, San Diego. Here I investigated how glycans are involved in cancer immunity. After five years in California, I returned to the UK for a second post-doc with Prof. Fran Balkwill at Barts Cancer Institute to further train in cancer biology.

In September 2017 I started my own research program with funding from UCB Pharma and Against Breast Cancer. The theme of our work is the tumour matrisome and its role in tumour immunity.