First groups arrive on the 6th floor

The first two groups have arrived on the 6th floor of the Paterson Building this week, setting up their lab and office spaces after relocating from Alderley Park.

The Cancer Inflammation and Immunity group, headed by Dr Santiago Zelenay, are bringing their expertise in cancer immunity – the interaction between the immune system and a tumour – to their lab spaces in the new building. 

They are investigating the balance between tumour-protective versus tumour-promoting inflammation, and are seeking to tip the balance in favour of immune responses which help patient’s bodies fight off cancer.  They are involved in clinical trials testing the application of these theories, and will be interacting with other groups in the building studying the immune landscape of cancer, as well as clinicians from the Christie Hospital and clinical trials teams based in and around the Paterson Building. 

Joining them at the top of the building are the team led by Professor Claus Jorgensen.  The Systems Oncology group study the complex ecosystems of solid tumours, which are composed not just mutated cancer cells, but also a variety of non-mutated host cells such as immune cells, fibroblasts and endothelial cells. This is particularly prominent in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma – where 80% of the tumour volume, on average, is made up by the tumour stroma (host cells and fibrosis). 

They are also developing patient-derived models to study the complexities of the tumour microenvironment in fresh ways.  Tumour cells are cultured in fully synthetic gels that also support fibroblasts, and the rigidity can be tuned to mimic the tumour environment.  Being in close proximity to the Christie Hospital will provide fresh opportunities to establish these models from patients. 

Their work draws on the expertise of many of the Institute’s core facilities, using advanced molecular biology and imaging techniques to explore the interaction between cancer cells and healthy cells in the tumour microenvironment, uncovering new insights that can be used to improve the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer.  They are advancing the understanding of cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs), healthy cells which can be recruited by a tumour and reprogrammed to feed the cancer cells, and protect them from the immune system which is trying to clear the cancer from the body.  Their work therefore connects with that of other teams in the Institute, including the Cancer Inflammation and Immunity group, so being co-located on the sixth floor will give even more opportunities for collaboration and the sharing of knowledge.

Dr Joanna Kelly from Systems Oncology explains more about this complex tumour landscape in this video produced for the Royal Society in 2021.