Drug Discovery - Caroline Springer

Professor Caroline Springer has led a team in cancer therapeutics for 25 years and has been involved in all stages of the drug discovery process in many different therapeutic areas. She completed her PhD in biological chemistry at University College London in 1984 and then moved to the Institute of Cancer Research, where in 1993 she established the Gene and Oncogene Targeting group. Over the last 25 years she also ran the development of various cancer treatments, including antibody, oncolytic viruses, metastases and cancer stem cell inhibitors. Her work has led to five clinical trials in antibody-directed and small molecule cancer therapies as well as nine preclinical candidate nominations and collaborations with pharmaceutical companies including AstraZeneca, Novartis and GSK. A key area of research has been to discover panRAF inhibitors for use in melanoma and colorectal cancers in collaboration with Institute Director Professor Richard Marais. She jointly led the development of new panRAF medicines that are currently undergoing clinical trials London and Manchester. Caroline is also working with Richard investigating lysyl oxidase inhibitors to prevent and treat metastases in a range of tumour types. A series of LOX inhibitors are now in late lead optimisation.

In October 2017, Caroline joined the CRUK Manchester Institute to become the new Director of the Drug Discovery Unit, superseding Donald Ogilvie who successfully led the DDU from its inception in 2009.


Structural biology and docking.
Crystal structure of 3 bound to the catalytic
domain of human PARG (PDB entry 5LHB)

The Drug Discovery Unit builds upon fundamental biology discoveries made within the CRUK Manchester Institute, the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, The University of Manchester and the wider cancer research community. Integrating medicinal, computational and synthetic chemistry with in vitro and cellular biology, the centre investigates novel drug discovery targets in an attempt to provide new chemical entities for the treatment of unmet clinical needs in cancer patients.

Lysyl oxidase (LOX) cross-links collagens and
is a key driver of cancer growth and metastasis.
An aminomethylene inhibitor is shown targeting
LOX which results in breaks in the collagen cross-links,
as shown figuratively as the disintegrated spider's web
and targeting of the spider representing inhibition of
cancer and metastases. (Leung et al. JMedChem 62, 2019).

Initiated in early 2009, the principal aim of the Drug Discovery Unit is to deliver novel treatments into the clinical setting as efficiently as possible. We intend to bridge the translational gap between the fundamental biological research conducted both within the Institute and the wider University community, and the opportunities for clinical application afforded by our proximity to The Christie NHS Foundation Trust. Established as part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, the unit has established facilities to enable state-of-the-art biological and clinical target assessment and validation, small molecule drug design and synthesis and the biological evaluation of the resultant compounds.

The Drug Discovery Unit is now actively progressing a portfolio of small molecule projects against a variety of oncology targets.


Selected Publications

Saturno G, Lopes F, Niculescu-Duvaz I, Niculescu-Duvaz D, Zambon A, Davies L, Johnson L, Preece N, Lee R, Viros A, Holovanchuk D, Pedersen M, McLeary R, Lorigan P, Dhomen N, Fisher C, Banerji U, Dean E, Krebs MG, Gore M, Larkin J, Marais R, Springer C. (2020)
The paradox-breaking panRAF plus SRC family kinase inhibitor, CCT3833, is effective in mutant KRAS-driven cancers. 
Ann Oncol. S0923-7534(20)42986-2. PubMed abstract

Smithen DA, Leung LMH, Challinor M, Lawrence R, Tang H, Niculescu-Duvaz D, Pearce SP, Mcleary R, ​Lopes F, Aljarah M, Brown M, Johnson L, Thomson G, Marais R, Springer C. (2020)
2-Aminomethylene-5-sulfonylthiazole Inhibitors of Lysyl Oxidase (LOX) and LOXL2 Show Significant Efficacy in Delaying Tumor Growth. 
J Med Chem. 63(5):2308-2324. PubMed abstract

Leung L, Niculescu-Duvaz D, Smithen D, Lopes F, Callens C, McLeary R, Saturno G, Davies L, Aljarah M, Brown M, Johnson L, Zambon A, Chambers T, Ménard D, Bayliss N, Knight R, Fish L, Lawrence R, Challinor M, Tang H, Marais R, Springer C. (2019)
Anti-metastatic inhibitors of lysyl oxidase (LOX): design and structure-activity relationships.
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 62(12):5863-5884.  PubMed abstract

Tang H, Leung L, Saturno G, Viros A, Smith D, Di Leva G, Morrison E, Niculescu-Duvaz D, Lopes F, Johnson L, Dhomen N, Springer C, Marais R. (2017)
Lysyl oxidase drives tumour progression by trapping EGF receptors at the cell surface.
Nature Communications 8:14909. PubMed abstract

Mould DP, Bremberg U, Jordan AM, Geitmann M, McGonagle AE, Somervaille TCP, Spencer GJ, Ogilvie DJ. (2017)
Development and evaluation of 4-(pyrrolidin-3-yl)benzonitrile derivatives as inhibitors of lysine specific demethylase 1.
Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters 27(20):4755-4759. PubMed abstract

Mould DP, Alli C, Bremberg U, Cartic S, Jordan AM, Geitmann M, Maiques-Diaz A, McGonagle AE, Somervaille TCP, Spencer GJ, Turlais F, Ogilvie D. (2017)
Development of (4-Cyanophenyl)glycine Derivatives as Reversible Inhibitors of Lysine Specific Demethylase 1.
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 60(19):7984-7999. PubMed abstract

James DI, Smith KM, Jordan AM, Fairweather EE, Griffiths LA, Hamilton NS, Hitchin JR, Hutton CP, Jones S, Kelly P, McGonagle AE, Small H, Stowell AI, Tucker J, Waddell ID, Waszkowycz B, Ogilvie DJ. (2016)
First-in-class chemical probes against poly(ADP-ribose) glycohydrolase (PARG) inhibit DNA repair with differential pharmacology to olaparib.
ACS Chemical Biology 11(11):3179-3190. PubMed abstract

Girotti MR, Lopes F, Preece N, Niculescu-Duvaz D, Zambon A, Davies L, Whittaker S, Saturno G, Viros A, Pedersen M, Suijkerbuijk BM, Menard D, McLeary R, Johnson L, Fish L, Ejiama S, Sanchez-Laorden B, Hohloch J, Carragher N, Macleod K, Ashton G, Marusiak AA, Fusi A, Brognard J, Frame M, Lorigan P, Marais R, Springer C. (2015)
Paradox-breaking RAF inhibitors that also target SRC are effective in drug-resistant BRAF mutant melanoma.
Cancer Cell 27(1):85-96. PubMed abstract

Girotti MR, Pedersen M, Sanchez-Laorden B, Viros A, Turajlic S, Niculescu-Duvaz D, Zambon A, Sinclair J, Hayes A, Gore M, Lorigan P, Springer C, Larkin J, Jorgensen C, Marais R. (2013)
Inhibiting EGF receptor or SRC family kinase signaling overcomes BRAF inhibitor resistance in melanoma.
Cancer Discovery 3(2):158-67. PubMed abstract






  • Head of Biology
  • Graeme Thomson
  • Biology
  • Aisling Minard
  • Anya Golder
  • Jessica Walker
  • Joanna Grabarek
  • ​Julia Morris
  • Head of Medicinal Chemistry
  • Dan Niculescu-Duvaz
  • Medicinal Chemistry
  • Ali Raoof
  • Christopher Kershaw
  • Deborah Smithen
  • Efthymios-Spyridon Gavriil
  • Leo Man Ho Leung
  • Michael Brown
  • Mohammed Aljarah
  • James Norris
  • Computational Chemistry
  • Christopher Fitzpatrick
  • Graduate Students
  • James Stratford
  • Megan Mylrea
  • Mihaela Ficu
  • Executive Assistant
  • Jayne Fowler

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