Gut Gamma Delta T cells detected by their expression of TCR delta chain RNA (red) line the human colonic epithelium (DAPI; blue) where they are well-placed to perform frontline immune surveillance.

Adrian Hayday : Immunosurveillance Laboratory

We are studying how white blood cells behave to help find new cancer therapies.

White blood cells called T cells help recognise and destroy body cells that could develop into cancer. We study how T cells react so quickly to changes in body biology.

Our lab has developed a theory we call ‘lymphoid stress surveillance’. It explains why T cells are so fast at spotting changes that could lead to cancer.

T cells are part of the immune system and also react to bacterial or viral infections. But they respond most quickly when they detect tiny changes to epithelial cells – the type of cell that builds layers of skin or lines the insides of organs.

Our ‘lymphoid stress surveillance’ idea explains how T cells recognise cells that could eventually turn into tumours. We are using it to track the molecules and pathways that signal dangerous changes to T cells and how T cells behave in response.

Recently we found a new family of genes that give instructions to build the tissue that attracts T cells to epithelial cells.

Another important part of our work is exploring the potential for new cancer therapies based on T cells. Part of our team works on this in the hospital at Guy’s Campus King’s College London.