Our clinical research programmes in solid tumours are focussed on key disease areas.
In lung cancer Prof Gary Middleton, Chair in Medical Oncology, leads a clinical research programme that links specific clinical trials with fundamental research on the immunology of the tumour microenvironment. Chief Investigator of the MATRIX stratification trial in Non Small Cell Lung Cancer, a key aim is to understand how the genetics of lung cancer impact on the immune microenvironment, and on the applicablity of new immunotherapy treatments such as checkpoint blockade to specific patient subsets. Prof Middleton is also co-lead of the immunobiology arm of TRACERx, a £14M clinical study exploring the evolution of lung tumours within patients. Finally, a key focus of Prof Middleton is on mesothelioma, where he leads a clinical trial aiming to potentiate anti-tumour responses by pharmacologically targeting myeloid derived suppressor cells in the tumour microenvironment. This involves close collaboration with Dr Carmen De Santo and Dr Frank Mussai.
In colorectal cancer, understanding genetic and molecular drivers of anti-tumour immunity is a key aim for Prof Gary Middleton, who leads the BRAF arm of the FOCUS4 molecular stratification trial. In addition, Prof Dion Morton (Chair of Surgery, Director of the Birmingham Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, and National NCRI lead for colorectal cancer surgical trials) leads the strong colorectal cancer surgical team and maintains a highly active trials portfolio, with an emphasis on personalized medicine approaches.
Head and Neck Cancer
Our Head and Neck cancer-related clinical research programme is led by Prof Hisham Mehanna, Director of the Institute for Head and Neck Studies and Education (InHANSE) Prof Mehanna is a Head and Neck surgeon and maintains an internationally leading portfolio of clinical trials in this disease area. He is collaborating with CIIC members to characterize the immune microenvironment of Head and Neck tumours, and boost anti-tumour immune responses, in the context of both HPV-positive and HPV-negative tumours. In other virus-related research, Dr Graham Taylor has generated a therapeutic Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) vaccine now being trialed in Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma, both in asia and the UK. This capitalizes on a unique knowledge of EBV immunology emerging from University of Birmingham scientists over the last 20 years.
In skin cancer Dr Neil Steven, Consultant in Medical Oncology, leads a clinical research programme focussed on both melanoma, and also Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare but aggressive form of skin cancer caused by Merkel Cell Polyomavirus (MCV). In melanoma, an active clinical trials programme is focussed on development of checkpoint blockade strategies, as well as on industrial collaborations on novel immunotherapeutic approaches such as Immtacs. For both melanoma and Merkel Cell Carcinoma, fundamental research into the immunology of the tumour microenvironment is an ongoing priority, and is likely to be critical in order to aid rational trial design.
Liver inflammation and liver cancer
Liver inflammation and liver cancer-associated research is a long standing clinical research theme at the University of Birmingham, and a key focus for Prof David Adams, Dr Ye Oo, and Dr Yuk-ting Ma, all members of the NIHR Birmingham Liver Biomedical Research Unit headed by Prof Adams. Understanding the key molecular processes driving chronic liver inflammation is a key aim, as well as developing immunotherapy approaches to suppress such inflammatory networks, and also, for liver cancer, to enhance anti-tumour immunity.