Cancer Research UK

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The London Research Institute research groups are based at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Clare Hall. Our major research themes are: the biology of tumours and tissues, cellular regulatory mechanisms and genomic integrity and cell cycle.

Erik Sahai : Tumour Cell Biology


The focus of our research is to understand the process of metastasis. Given the major effect of metastasis on mortality and morbidity there should be great benefits to be had if this process could be targeted pharmacologically. However, because metastasis happens within an organism, getting mechanistic data about the molecular basis of processes involved, as opposed to simply measuring the end-point of tumour growth, presents a formidable challenge.

Our group combines genetic and molecular analysis of cell motility with state-of-the-art imaging technologies - particularly intravital microscopy and novel fluorescence-based probes and reporter genes - to visualise when and where signal pathways are active, and to test the mechanistic predictions of cell biology and tissue culture experiments. The work involves not only analysis of the tumour cells themselves but also their context - tumour vasculature, cytokine signalling, and the role of stromal cells. This work has provided insights into the transient characteristics of cancer cells during the process of metastasis. Further, we have demonstrated a key role for force-mediated matrix remodelling by stromal fibroblasts in promoting cancer cell invasion and established that this process can be targeted therapeutically. Finally, we use intravital imaging to provide insights into the mechanisms by which cancer cells move in 3D environments.