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.

Ilaria Malanchi : Tumour Host Interaction


Cancer rises from cells in our body that break the rules of a multicellular organism. They can proliferate indiscriminately and build their own stromal support and network of blood vessels. Indeed tumours have very complex structures; like an abnormal organ within the body. Of course the organism has the immune system to protect it from rising cancer cells and consequently they are generally killed as soon they appear. What happens when a tumour actually grows? What survival mechanisms do successful cancer cells have over unsuccessful ones? For cancer cells to survive they need to “convince” the body that they have the right to exist and grow as a tumour. They need to put in place strategies to “corrupt” the normal host cells both locally in their direct surrounding as well as at distal sites. Only by modifying their environment they can survive and build their life support structure. This is the reason why we think of cancer as a whole-body-disease.

The aim of our lab is to understand the crosstalk tumour cells establish with the host organism and the modifications they induce in their microenvironment. We aim to learn how some changes in the organism (such as chronic inflammation) can favour tumour onset, how tumour cells can evade detection from the immune system, and what metastatic cells need from the target organ to settle and to re-start tumour growth at distant sites. Our final aim is to gain sufficient information enabling us to find strategies to interfere with this essential tumour-host crosstalk. Consequently, we wish to define new effective anti-cancer therapies.