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School of the Biological Sciences

Fundamental research into the biological causes and drivers of cancer is vital to deliver scientific progress in this priority area of human health. Researchers from the School of Biological Sciences and the wider University are working together across disciplines to develop innovations and insights at the frontiers of cancer biology, laying the groundwork for the development of accurate diagnostic tools, preventative strategies and personalised cancer treatments.

The two current areas of focus are: Discovering the biological blueprints of cancer and Fighting cancer with the immune system.


Focus Topic: Discovering the biological blueprints of cancer

Academic Leads: Catherine Lindon and Suzanne Turner

Within the Molecules and Cells Research Theme there is an incredible breadth and depth of researchers working to understand the fundamental biology of cancer, work that is essential for improving prevention, early detection, and treatment strategies. From evolutionary and genomic disease drivers, to cell behaviour and cancer risk markers, our scientists harness a strong collaborative ethos to expand understanding and knowledge of cancer, whilst also working closely with our clinical colleagues and lived experience partners to ensure faster progress towards improved patient outcomes.  

We are pleased to be partnering with the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre and the Fundamental Biology of Cancer programme as part of this important work.


Innovation and Impact


  • Research at the University of Cambridge into DNA repair inhibitors led to a novel cancer therapy, Olaparib, which has been approved for ovarian, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer treatment. Read more
  • Working with Kings College, Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group and The Chartwell Trust, Professor Suzanne Turner has helped create The Oncology Guide - a family-friendly guide to cancer.


Focus Topic: Fighting cancer with the immune system

Academic Leads: Brian Ferguson and Rahul Roychoudhuri

A specific focus within the cancer research community in the School of Biological Sciences is to understand how fundamental processes of the body’s immune system can be supported and directed to regulate cancer pathology. Catalysed by the Infection and Immunity Research Theme, scientists from across biological, physical, engineering and clinical biology are working together to harness the amazing potential of the immune system in cancer suppression and treatment.  

In addition to new academic collaborations, cancer biology researchers are engaging with lived experience participants to ensure research outcomes are patient centred, and with industry partners to share the latest research and advance cancer immunotherapeutics.


Innovation and Impact



Participatory Research

The School of Biological Sciences is committed to supporting participatory research, where people with lived experience of the research topic in question are included in the design, development and delivery of research, and supported and compensated appropriately. This is especially pertinent in research linked to clinical conditions such as cancer, where engagement with patient groups and carers can improve the quality and impacts of research. 

Cambridge researchers can find out more about the support and guidance for equitable participatory research on the School Information Hub.


Key Collaborators

The biological blueprints of cancer

Jean Abraham, Oncology and Precision Breast Cancer Institute 

David Adams, Wellcome Sanger Institute and CRUK Cambridge Centre

Sarah Aitken, MRC Toxicology Unit 

Tom Blundell, Biochemistry

Paolo D'Avino, Pathology

Marc de la Roche, Biochemistry

Ming-Qing Du, Pathology

David Fernandez-Antoran, Gurdon Institute and Pathology

Brian Ferguson, Pathology 

Jenny Gallop, Gurdon Institute and Biochemistry

Richard Gilbertson, CRUK Cambridge Centre 

Shery Huang, Engineering 

Steve Jackson, CRUK Cambridge Institute 

Walid Khaled, Pharmacology

Laura Machesky, Biochemistry

Elizabeth Murchison, Veterinary Medicine

James Nathan, Medicine  

Ewa Paluch, Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

Lori Passmore, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Anna Philpott, Oncology

Iva Tchasovnikarova, Gurdon Institute 

Suzanne Turner, Pathology


Fighting cancer with the immune system

Giulia Biffi, CRUK Cambridge Institute

Louise Boyle, Pathology

Mike Chapman, CRUK Cambridge Centre 

Maike de la Roche, CRUK Cambridge Institute

Melinda Duer, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Tim Halim, CRUK Cambridge Institute

Christoph Hess, CITIID

Alexandre Kabla, Department of Engineering 

Tuomas Knowles, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Bidesh Mahata, Pathology

Klaus Okkenhaug, Pathology 

Rahul Roychoudhuri, Pathology 


Work with us

We welcome opportunities to collaborate with industry partners, policy makers and academics. If you are interested in working with us, please contact Dr Abi Herrmann, Research Strategy Manager.

Key Publications

Discovering the biological blueprints of cancer

Targeting NRAS via miR-1304-5p or farnesyltransferase inhibition confers sensitivity to ALK inhibitors in ALK-mutant neuroblastoma.

Pucci P, Lee LC, Han M, Matthews JD, ..., Kenner L, Burke GAA, Turner SD. Nat Commun. 2024 Apr 23;15(1):3422.

Palbociclib releases the latent differentiation capacity of neuroblastoma cells

Ferguson KM, Gillen SL, Chaytor L, Poon E, Marcos D, Gomez RL, Woods LM, Mykhaylechko L, Elfari L, Martins da Costa B, Jamin Y, Carroll JS, Chesler L, Ali FR, Philpott A. Dev Cell. 2023 Oct 9;58(19):1967-1982.e8.

Differential translation of mRNA isoforms underlies oncogenic activation of cell cycle kinase Aurora A

Cacioppo R, Akman HB, Tuncer T, Erson-Bensan AE, Lindon C. Elife. 2023 Jun 29;12:RP87253.

Fighting cancer with the immune system

Acquisition of suppressive function by conventional T cells limits antitumor immunity upon Treg depletion

Whiteside SK, Grant FM, Alvisi G, Clarke J, Tang L, Imianowski CJ, Zhang B, Evans AC, Wesolowski AJ, Conti AG, Yang J, Lauder SN, Clement M, Humphreys IR, Dooley J, Burton O, Liston A, Alloisio M, Voulaz E, Langhorne J, Okkenhaug K, Lugli E, Roychoudhuri R. Sci Immunol. 2023 Dec 15;8(90):eabo5558.

Tumors induce de novo steroid biosynthesis in T cells to evade immunity

Mahata B, Pramanik J, van der Weyden L, Polanski K, Kar G, Riedel A, Chen X, Fonseca NA, Kundu K, Campos LS, Ryder E, Duddy G, Walczak I, Okkenhaug K, Adams DJ, Shields JD, Teichmann SA. . Nat Commun. 2020 Jul 17;11(1):3588.

LGR5 targeting molecules as therapeutic agents for multiple cancer types

Chen H-C, Mueller N, Stott K, Rivers E, Kapeni C, Sauer CM, Beke F, Walsh S, Ashman N, O’Brien L, Rafati Fard A, Godsinia A, Joud F, Giger O, Zlobec I, Olan I, Aitken SJ, Hoare M, Mair R, Serrao E, Brenton JD, Garcia-Gimenez A, Richardson SE, Huntly B, Spring DR, Skjødt M-O, Skjødt K, de la Roche M, de la Roche M. bioRxiv 2022.09.01.506182