Dr Francis Mussai

Dr Francis Mussai is a Clinical Senior Lecturer with a strong research interest in exploring the immunosuppressive microenvironment generated by paediatric malignancies.

Clinical Senior Lecturer in School of Cancer Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham. 

Email: f.j.mussai@bham.ac.uk

UoB profile

Background and Research focus

Dr Francis Mussai is a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Oncology in the School of Cancer Sciences at the University of Birmingham. His research is focused on understanding the interaction between paediatric cancers and the immune system. His group is particularly interested in how cancers such as neuroblastoma and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) employ mechanisms to suppress the immune response to avoid elimination. Neuroblastoma represents a rare childhood cancer whose high risk metastatic form has a dismal outcome despite aggressive therapeutic interventions. Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are a heterogenous population of immature myeloid cells that are expanded in solid tumours and are capable of suppressing patient’s anti-tumour immune response. With this in mind, the Mussai group in collaboration with Dr John Anderson (Great Ormond Street Hospital) and Dr Kate Wheeler (Children’s Hospital, Oxford) are dissecting the role of MDSCs in the immunobiology of neuroblastoma with the aim of targeting their activity to restore anti-tumour immunity. He is also interested in understanding the mechanisms governing the immunosuppressive niche generated by AML, the second most common leukaemia of childhood.  Dr Mussai has forged strong links with Dr Pam Kearns and Dr Vicki Weston to develop prognostic biomarkers and identify therapies that overcome the immunosuppressive microenvironment in AML. 


Paediatric oncology; Neuroblastoma; acute myeloid leukaemia; myeloid derived suppressor cells; immunosuppressive environment.

Other activities

Dr Mussai in collaboration with Professor Gary Middleton and Dr Carmen de Santo is involved in a clinical trial aiming to potentiate anti-tumour responses by pharmacologically targeting myeloid derived suppressor cells in the tumour microenvironment of mesothelioma. Francis also makes substantial contributions to teaching at the University of Birmingham by regularly delivering lectures and small group tutorials on the MBChB Year 5 Paediatric Course and the Pathology of Cancer and Paediatric Oncology modules on the MSc in Clinical Oncology. In addition to his research commitments, Francis is an honorary Paediatric Oncology Consultant at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Here he continues to work on early phase clinical trials of novel therapeutic drugs for paediatric cancers as well as undertake out-patient clinics and ward rounds of in-patients.  Finally, he is actively involved in teaching within the hospital including mentoring of medical students and junior doctors.


Mussai FJ, De Santo C, Abu-Dayyeh I, Booth S, Quek L, McEwen-Smith R Qureshi A, Dazzi F, Vyas P, Cerundolo V. 2013. Acute myeloid leukaemia creates an arginase-dependent immunosuppressive microenvironment. Blood; 122(5):749-58.

Commentary: Marcucci G Blood 2013 122:620-621 and Haznedaroglu Blood (August 26 2013).

Mussai F,De Santo C, Cerundolo V. (2012), Interaction between invariant NKT cells and Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells in cancer patients: evidence and therapeutic opportunities. Journal of Immunotherapy, 35: 449-59.

Fitzgerald DJ, Moskatel E, Ben-Josef G, Traini R, Tendler T, Sharma A, Antignani A, Mussai F, Wayne A, Kreitman RJ, Pastan I. (2011), Enhancing immunotoxin cell-killing activity via combination therapy with ABT-737. Leukemia & Lymphoma, 52: 79-81.

El-Mallawany NK, Geller L, Bollard CM, Wistinghausen B, Mussai F, Wayne AS, Alobeid B, Cairo MS. (2011) Long-term remission in a child with refractory EBV+ hydro vacciniforme-like T-cell lymphoma through sequential EBV+ related allogenic hematopoietic SCT followed by donor-derived EBV-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte immunotherapy. Bone Marrow Transplantation, 46: 759-761.

Mussai F, Campana D, Bhojwani D, Stetler-Stevenson M, Steinberg SM,  Wayne AS, Pastan I. (2010) Cytotoxicity of the anti-CD22 immunotoxin HA22 (CAT-8015) against paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. British Journal of Haematology, 150: 352-358.

Mussai F, Cunningham LC, Rezvani G, Stratakis CA, Reynolds JC, Nesterova G, Henshaw RM, Levine JE, Helman L, Arthur DC, Kim SY. (2008) Hypocalcaemia in a patient with osteosarcoma and 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. Journal of Pediatric Hematology Oncology, 30: 612-617.

Mitchell C, Mussai FJ. (2008) Wilms’ Tumour, In: J Barratt, K Harris, P Topham (eds.) Oxford Desktop Reference Nephrology, OUP Oxford, 672-675.