Professor Fran Balkwill

OBE, FMedSci
Professor of Cancer Biology
Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Honorary Fellowship of the British Science Association
Deputy Centre Lead, Group Leader, Research Theme Lead
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Research Focus

My research is focused on the links between cancer and inflammation, being especially interested in translating knowledge of cancer biology into new biological treatments for cancer and in the role that inflammatory cytokines play in cancer promotion. We study the tumour microenvironment of ovarian cancer using a platform of human multi-cellular tissue culture models and mouse models to research biological therapies that may prevent relapse and increase patient survival.

Key Publications

Chemotherapy Induces Tumor-Associated Macrophages that Aid Adaptive Immune Responses in Ovarian Cancer. Cancer Immunol Res (2021) 9(6):665-681. PMID: 33839687

A human multi-cellular model shows how platelets drive production of diseased extracellular matrix and tissue invasion. iScience (2021) 24(6):102676. PMID: 34189439

TGFBI Production by Macrophages Contributes to an Immunosuppressive Microenvironment in Ovarian Cancer. Cancer Res (2021) 81(22):5706-5719. PMID: 34561272

Mouse Ovarian Cancer Models Recapitulate the Human Tumor Microenvironment and Patient Response to Treatment. Cell Rep (2020) 30(2):525-540.e7. PMID: 31940494

Deconstruction of a Metastatic Tumor Microenvironment Reveals a Common Matrix Response in Human Cancers. Cancer Discov (2018) 8(3):304-319. PMID: 29196464

Major Funding
  • 2022-2027- UKRI grant, REMODEL, remodelling cancer microenvironments, £2,154,257
  • 2018-2023- Cancer Research UK, Targeting the innate immune system in high-grade serous ovarian cancer, £2,000,000 (approx.)
  • 2018-2023- Cancer Research UK, Targeting the innate immune system in high grade serous ovarian cancer, £1,924,190.43
  • 2017-2019- Cancer Research UK, Targeting the peritoneal tumour microenvironment of high grade serous ovarian cancer, £1,652,914.00
Other Activities
  • Director of Centre of the Cell
  • Deputy Chair of CRUK Clinical Trials Committee
  • Trustee of Blood Cancer UK
Research

I am Professor of Cancer Biology at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, where I am Deputy Centre Lead for the Centre for Tumour Microenvironment. I study the links between cancer and inflammation and research ways of translating this to clinical trial.

My key research areas of interest are:

  • The tumour microenvironment with an especial focus on innate immune reactions
  • Development of novel multi-cellular models of the tumour microenvironment
  • Ovarian cancer with a focus on high grade serous and clear cell subtypes
  • Public engagement with biomedical science and science policy
Other Activities
  • Director of Centre of the Cell
  • Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), Non-Parliamentary Board Member
  • ERC Starter grants panel membership
  • Deputy Chair of CRUK Clinical Trials Committee
  • Trustee of Blood Cancer UK
  • Academy of Medical Sciences Daniel Turnberg Fellowship Panel
Major Funding
  • 2022-2027- UKRI grant, REMODEL, remodelling cancer microenvironments, £2,154,257
  • 2018-2023- Cancer Research UK, Targeting the innate immune system in high-grade serous ovarian cancer, £2,000,000 (approx.)
  • 2018-2023- Cancer Research UK, Targeting the innate immune system in high grade serous ovarian cancer, £1,924,190.43
  • 2017-2019- Cancer Research UK, Targeting the peritoneal tumour microenvironment of high grade serous ovarian cancer, £1,652,914.00
  • 2016-2019- Wellcome Trust, The effects of neo-adjuvant chemotherapy on myleoid cells in high-grade serous ovarian cancer metastases, £313,427.00
  • 2013-2018- Commission of the European Community, CANBUILD-Building a Human Tumour Microenvironment, £1,763,279.00
  • 2013-2017- Medimmune Ltd, Establish PD response of combinations of chemotherapeutic agents and anti-PD-L1 antibodies, £299,870.00
  • 2013-2016- Cancer Research UK, Targeting the peritoneal tumour microenvironment of high grade serous ovarian cancer, £1,583,024.00
  • 2012-2015- Gilead Sciences Ltd, Testing therapeutic potential of Gilead compound GS-9820, £250,610.00
  • 2012-2016- Commission of the European Community, Tumor Infiltrating Myeloid Cell Compartment  (TIMCC), £430,060.00
Recent Publications

The Tumor Microenvironment of Clear-Cell Ovarian Cancer Devlin MJ, Miller R, Laforets F et al. Cancer Immunology Research (2022) 10(7) 1326-1339

A Therapeutically Actionable Protumoral Axis of Cytokines Involving IL-8, TNFα and IL-1β Olivera I, Sanz-Pamplona R, Bolaños E et al. Cancer Discovery (2022) 12(7) 2140-2157

Immune Mechanisms of Resistance to Cediranib in Ovarian Cancer Gopinathan G, Berlato C, Lakhani A et al. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics (2022) 21(7) 1030-1045

Loss of mTORC2-induced metabolic reprogramming in monocytes uncouples migration and maturation from production of proinflammatory mediators Jangani M, Vuononvirta J, Yamani L et al. Journal of Leukocyte Biology (2022) 111(7) 967-980

Harnessing cytokines and chemokines for cancer therapy Propper DJ, Balkwill FR Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology (2022) 19(7) 237-253

Building in vitro 3D human multicellular models of high-grade serous ovarian cancer Malacrida B, Pearce OMT, Balkwill FR STAR Protocols (2022) 3(7)

Gender Stereotypes and Peer Selection in STEM Domains Among Children and Adolescents McGuire L, Hoffman AJ, Mulvey KL et al. Sex Roles (2022) (7)

Impact of Youth and Adult Informal Science Educators on Youth Learning at Exhibits McGuire L, Hoffman AJ, Mulvey KL et al. Visitor Studies (2022) 25(7) 41-59

Preparing the Next Generation for STEM: Adolescent Profiles Encompassing Math and Science Motivation and Interpersonal Skills and Their Associations With Identity and Belonging Mulvey KL, McGuire L, Mathews C et al. Youth and Society (2022) (7)

Promoting Diverse Youth’s Career Development through Informal Science Learning: The Role of Inclusivity and Belonging Zhao M, Mathews CJ, Mulvey KL et al. Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2022) (7)

For additional publications, please click here
Team

Postdoctoral Researchers in this group
Dr Eleni Maniati, Dr Ganga GopinathanDr Florian Laforêts, Dr Beatrice MalacridaDr Panoraia Kotantaki, Dr Joash Joy

Clinical Research Fellows
Dr Owen Heath

PhD Students
Priyankaa Goordyal, Laura Lecker

Research Technician
Sam Nichols

BSU Technician
Colin Pegrum

Biography

In 2006, I was made a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, being elected a member of its Council later in the same year. I am a frequent plenary and keynote speaker at international meetings, such as Gordon and Keystone conferences and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

I am also actively involved in communication of science to non-specialist audiences, especially young people. I have written thirteen science books for children on cell and molecular biology, with titles such as Enjoy Your Cells and The Egg and Sperm Race.

I am the Director of the Centre of the Cell, a biomedical science centre for children, educational website, and widening participation and outreach project in Whitechapel. The website was launched in March 2007 and the physical Centre opened in September 2009. As of July 2017 there have been over 171,000 participants in Centre of the Cell activities (www.centreofthecell.org).

I am a non-parliamentary board member of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, POST and a Trustee of Bloodwise. I was awarded an OBE in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours list. In 2015 I was made a Doctor of Science honoris causa by the University of Bristol and in 2017 was awarded the Cancer Research UK Inspiring Leadership in Research Engagement Prize.