Research Groups


Early detection research in Cambridge

There are many researchers in Cambridge and beyond working in all aspects of early detection research and we are proud to say that our highly multidisciplinary Institute is engaged with many of them. The groups highlighted below are those that are based in the Hutchison Research Centre.

The Blundell Lab

Jamie Blundell’s lab works on understanding how mutant clones arise, expand and compete in our tissues as we age. Focusing predominantly on blood, we use novel genetic lineage tracking tools and deep sequencing of longitudinal samples to identify mutant clones which are under strong positive selection. Such clones are implicated in early cancer and thus are candidates for improved cancer detection.

The Dev Lab

Harveer Dev’s lab explores mechanisms of genome instability in early stage prostate cancer, in order to improve the detection and treatment of patients with lethal disease. We use high-throughput genetic screening approaches and surgically-derived early disease models to explore DNA damage response pathways in prostate cancer. This allows us to identify critical genetic drivers, and hence biomarkers, of disease progression and therapeutic responsiveness, providing opportunities to deliver personalised therapies to patients.

The di Pietro Lab

The research group led by Dr Massimiliano di Pietro is interested in investigating new imaging and molecular techniques for the early detection of oesophageal and gastric cancer. We are focused on endoscopic imaging as well as cell collection devices, such as Cytosponge, and molecular biomarkers. Our mission is to diagnose cancer early and cure it with minimally invasive approach.

The Fitzgerald Lab

Rebecca Fitzgerald’s lab focuses on understanding the earliest molecular steps in the development of oesophageal and gastric cancer and applying this knowledge to develop and evaluate new diagnostic tests. They are a highly inter-disciplinary group spanning: epidemiology and public health; cell and molecular biology; computational biology; clinical trial expertise; and collaborative work in machine learning, physics and chemical engineering. Researchers are involved in a number of clinical studies, translating research to patient benefit.

One major breakthrough of the group has been the development of the Cytosponge-biomarker technology all the way from concept through to large scale clinical trial and implementation. Find out more about the Cytosponge.

The Massie Lab: Uro-oncology early detection lab

Using genetic and epigenetic alterations found in early prostate cancer Charlie Massie's uro-oncology early detection lab will create assays for sensitive detection and quantification of cell-free tumour DNA and develop molecular prognostic scores to help stratify early stage prostate tumours. More accurate risk stratification will spare men with indolent disease from the risks of unnecessary over treatment, and allow more targeted interventions in men with high-risk disease. Click here for the latest updates on ctDNA and liquid biopsy.

The Muñoz-Espín Lab

Daniel Muñoz-Espín’s lab works on the interface between cellular senescence, plasticity and the fundamental processes and mechanisms that lie at the origin of cancer. We are also developing novel tools and nano-devices for cancer diagnosis and therapy.

Daniel is also co-lead of the Thoracic Cancer Programme at the CRUK Cambridge Centre.

The Nik-Zainal Lab

Serena Nik-Zainal's lab studies the physiology of mutagenesis, combining computational approaches with experimental and cancer data. The insights gained through Big Data analysis and experiments in cell-based systems has led to the development of clinical algorithmic tools that should translate into clinical utility in the near future.

The Shehata Group

The Shehata group focuses on understanding the dynamics of normal breast stem and progenitor cells and how errors in these cells lead to breast cancer. We use patient derived organoid models to make ‘mini-breasts’, which recapitulate many aspects of normal breast tissue. This allows us to study how pre-cancerous mutations in luminal progenitor cells from either genome edited or germline patient organoids changes cell fate leading to cancer. Our organoid models enable identifying the mechanisms influencing breast cancer initiation and providing biomarker development for the early detection of breast cancer.